Skip to main content

Full text of "The Principles Of Art"

See other formats








Oxford University Press , Amen House , London E.C.4 




1945, 1947, 2C950, 1955, I960 


Thirteen years ago I wrote, at the request of the Clarendon 
Press, a small book called Outlines of a Philosophy of Art. 
When that book went out of print early in the present year, 
I was asked either to revise it for a new edition or to replace 
it with another. I chose the latter course, not only because 
I have changed my mind on some things in the meantime, 
but also because the situation both of art and of aesthetic 
theory in this country has changed as well. There has been 
at any rate the beginning of what may prove an important 
revival in the arts themselves. Fashions which before the 
War seemed firmly entrenched, in spite of their obvious 
bankruptcy, and which even in 1 924 were only moth-eaten, 
and hardly yet even beginning to be replaced by others, 
have begun to disappear, and new ones are growing up 

We have in this way a new drama, taking the place of the 
old ‘slice of life’ entertainment, in which the author’s chief 
business was to represent everyday doings of ordinary people 
as the audience believed them to behave, and the actor’s 
chief function to take a cigarette from his case, tap it, and 
put it between his lips. We have a new poetry, and we have 
a new way of painting. We have some very interesting 
experiments in a new way of writing prose. These things 
are gradually establishing themselves; but they are much 
hampered by rags and tatters of moribund theory which still 
encumber and intimidate the minds of people who ought to 
be welcoming the new developments. 

At the same time, we have a new and very lively, if some- 
what chaotic, growth of aesthetic theory and criticism, 
written mostly not by academic philosophers or amateurs 
of art, but by poets, dramatists, painters, and sculptors 
themselves. This is the reason for the appearance of the 
present book. As long as the theory of art was chiefly 
pursued in this country by academic philosophers, I should 


not have thought it worth my time or my publisher’s money 
to write upon it at such length as I have written here. But the 
recent development of literature on the subject shows that 
artists themselves are now interested in it (a thing which 'in 
England has not happened for over a century) ; and it is to 
contribute in my own way to this development, and thus 
indirectly to the new movement in the arts themselves, that 
I publish this work. 

For I do not think of aesthetic theory as an attempt to 
investigate and expound eternal verities concerning the 
nature of an eternal object called Art, but as an attempt to 
reach, by thinking, the solution of certain problems arising 
out of the situation in which artists find themselves here 
and now. Everything written in this book has been written 
in the belief that it has a practical bearing, direct or indirect, 
upon the condition of art in England in 1937, and in the 
hope that artists primarily, and secondarily persons whose 
interest in art is lively and sympathetic, will find it of some 
use to them. Hardly any space is devoted to criticizing 
other people’s aesthetic doctrines; not because I have not 
studied them, nor because I have dismissed them as not 
worth considering, but because I have something of my own 
to say, and think the best service I can do to a reader is to 
say it as clearly as I can. 

Of the three parts into which it is divided, Book I is 
chiefly concerned to say things which any one tolerably 
acquainted with artistic work knows already; the purpose of 
this being to clear up our minds as to the distinction between 
art proper, which is what aesthetic is about, and certain 
other things which are different from it but are often called 
by the same name. Many false aesthetic theories are fairly 
accurate accounts of these other things, and much bad 
artistic practice comes from confusing them with art proper. 
These errors in theory and practice should disappear when 
the distinctions in queStion are properly apprehended. 

In this way a preliminary account of art is reached; but 
a second difficulty is now encountered. This preliminary 



account, according to the schools of philosophy now most 
fashionable in our own country, cannot be true; for it 
traverses certain doctrines taught in those schools and there- 
fore, according to them, is not so much false as nonsensical. 
Book II is therefore devoted to a philosophical exposition of 
the terms used in this preliminary account of art, and an 
attempt to show that the conceptions they express are 
justified in spite of the current prejudice against them; are 
indeed logically implied even in the philosophies that 
repudiate them. 

The preliminary account of art has by now been converted 
into a philosophy of art. But a third question remains. Is 
this so-called philosophy of art a mere intellectual exercise, 
or has it practical consequences bearing on the way in which 
we ought to approach the practice of art (whether as artists 
or as audience) and hence, because a philosophy of art is a 
theory as to the place of art in life as a whole, the practice 
of life ? As I have already indicated, the alternative I accept 
is the second one. In Book III, therefore, I have tried to 
point out some of these practical consequences by suggesting 
what kinds of obligation the acceptance of this aesthetic 
theory would impose upon artists and audiences, and in 
what kinds of way they could be met. 


22 September 1937 

R. G. C. 



§ i. The Two Conditions of an Aesthetic Theory . . i 

§ 2. Artist-aestheticians and Philosopher-aestheticians . , 2 

§ 3. The Present Situation . . . . . 4 

§ 4. History of the word ‘Art’ ..... 5 

§ 5. Systematic Ambiguity ..... 7 

§ 6. Plan of Book I . . . . -9 



§ 1. The Meaning of Craft . . . . • *5 

§ 2. The Technical Theory of Art . . . .17 

§3. Break-down of the Theory. . . . .20 

§4, Technique . . . . . .26 

§ 5. Art as a Psychological Stimulus , . . .29 

§ 6. Fine Art and Beauty . . . . • 3^ 


§1. Representation and Imitation * . . . • 4 2 

§ 2. Representative Art and Art Proper . . *43 

§ 3. Plato and Aristotle on Representation . . .46 

§ 4. Literal and Emotional Representation . . • 5 2 


§ 1. What Magic is not: (i) Pseudo-science . . *57 

§ 2. What Magic is not: (ii) Neurosis . . . #62 

§ 3. What Magic Is . * * • • ^5 

§4. Magical Art . . . * • .69 


§ 1. Amusement Art . . . . • * 7 ® 

§ 2. Profit and Delight . . • * .82 

§ 3. Examples of Amusement Art . . • , • 84 

§ 4. Representation and the Critic . . . .88 

§ 5. Amusement in the Modern World • *94 


§ 1. The New Problem . * • * I0 5 

§ 2. Expressing Emotion and Arousing Emotion . .109 

4436 B 


§ 3 . Expression and Individualization . , . .in 

§ 4. Selection and Aesthetic Emotion . . . .115 

§ 5. The Artist and the Ordinary Man . . . .117 

§6. The Curse of the Ivory Tower . . . .*119 

§ 7. Expressing Emotion and Betraying Emotion . .121 


§1. The Problem Defined . . . . .125 

§2. Making and Creating . . . . .128 

§3. Creation and Imagination . . • . . .130 

§4. Imagination and Make-believe . . . . 1 35 

§ 5. The Work of Art as Imaginary Object . . . 139 

§ 6. The Total Imaginative Experience . . .144 

§ 7. Transition to Book II . . . . .151 



§ 1. The Two Contrasted . . . . . 1 57 

§ 2. Feeling . . . . . . .160 

§ 3. Thinking ....... 164 

§ 4. The Problem of Imagination . . . .168 


§ r. Terminology . . . . . . x 72 

§ 2. History of the Problem: Descartes to Locke . . 174 

§3. Berkeley: the Introspection Theory , . . 178 

§4. Berkeley: the Relation Theory , . . . 179 

§ 5. Hume . . . . . . .182 

§6. Kant ....... 186 

§7. ‘Illusory Sensa* . . . . . , x88 

§8. ‘Appearances’ and ‘Images* . . . .190 

§9. Conclusion . . . . . .192 


§ 1. Imagination as Active . . . , . 195 

§ 2. The Traditional Confusion of Sense with Imagination . 198 
§ 3. Impressions and Ideas . . 1 . . 202 

§4. Attention ....... 203 

§ 5. The Modification of Feeling by Consciousness . . 206 

§ 6. Consciousness and Imagination , . , .211 

§ 7. Consciousness and Truth . , . . .215 

§ 8. Summary . . . . . . .221 




§ i. Symbol and Expression . . . . .225 

§ 2. Psychical Expression . . . . .228 

§ 3. Imaginative Expression . . . . . 234. 

§ 4. Language and Languages . . . . .241 

§ 5. Speaker and Hearer . . . . . 247 

§6. Language and Thought . . . . .252 

§ 7. The Grammatical Analysis of Language . . .254 

§ 8. The Logical Analysis of Language . . . , 259 

§ 9. Language and Symbolism ..... 268 



§ 1. Skeleton of a Theory ..... 273 
§ 2. Art Proper and Art falsely so called . . . 275 

§ 3. Good Art and Bad Art . . . . .280 


§ 1. Imagination and Truth . . . . .286 

§ 2. Art as Theory and Art as Practice . . . .289 

§ 3. Art and Intellect . . , . . .292 


§ 1. Externalization . . . . . .300 

§ 2. Painting and Seeing . . . . .302 

§ 3. The Bodily ‘Work of Art* ..... 305 
§ 4. The Audience as Understander .... 308 
§ 5. The Audience as Collaborator . . . .311 

§ 6. Aesthetic Individualism . . . . . 3 1 5 

§ 7. Collaboration between Artists . . . -318 

§ 8. Collaboration between Author and Performer . . 320 

§ 9. The Artist and his Audience . . . .321 



• 337 



§ x. The Two Conditions of an Aesthetic Theory 

The business of this book is to answer the question: Wh at 
is art? 

A question of thfe kind has to be answered in two stages. 
First, we must make sure that the key word (in this case ‘art’) 
is a word which we know how to apply where it ought to 
be applied and refuse where it ought to be refused. It would 
not be much use beginning to argue about the correct 
definition of a general term whose instances we could not 
recognize when we saw them. Our first business, then, is to 
bring ourselves into a position in which we can say with 
confidence ‘this and this and this are art; that and that and 
that are not art’. 

This would be hardly worth insisting upon, but for two 
facts : that the word ‘art’ is a word in common use, and that 
it is used equivocally. If it had not been a word in common 
use, we could have decided for ourselves when to apply it 
and when to refuse it. ~ But the problem we are concerned 
with is not one that can be approached in that way. It is 
one of those problems where what we want to do is to clarify 
and systematize ideas we already possess; consequently 
there is no point in using words according to a private rule 
of our own, we must use them in a way which fits on to 
common usage. This again would have been easy, but for 
the fact that common usage is ambiguous. The word ‘art’ 
means several different things ; and we have to decide which 
of these usages is the one that interests us. Moreover, the 
other usages must not be simply jettisoned as irrelevant. 
They are very important for our inquiry; partly because 
false theories are generated by failure to distinguish them, 
so that in expounding one usage we must give a certain 
attention to others; partly because confusion between the 


various senses of the word may produce bad practice as well 
as bad theory. We must therefore review the improper 
senses of the word ‘art’ in a careful and systematic way; so 
that at the end of it we can say not only ‘that and that and 
that are not art’, but ‘that is not art because it is pseudo-art 
of kind A ; that, because it is pseudo-art of kind B ; and that, 
because it is pseudo-art of kind C’. 

Secondly, we must proceed to a definition of the term 
‘art’. This comes second, and not first,' because no one can 
even try to define a term until he has settled in his own 
mind a definite usage of it: no one can define a term in 
common use until he has satisfied himself that his personal 
usage of it harmonizes with the common usage. Definition 
necessarily means defining one thing in terms of something 
else; therefore, in order to define any given thing, one must 
have in one’s head not only a clear idea of the thing to be 
defined, but an equally clear idea of all the other things by 
reference to which one defines it. People often go wrong 
over this. They think that in order to construct a definition 
or (what is the same thing) a ‘theory’ of something, it is 
enough to have a clear idea of that one thing. That is 
absurd. Having a clear idea of the thing enables them to 
recognize it when they see it, just as having a clear idea of 
a certain house enables them to recognize it when they are 
there; but defining the thing is like explaining where the 
house is or pointing out its position on the map; you must 
know its relations to other things as well, and if your ideas 
of these other things are vague, your definition will be 

§ 2. Artist-aestheticians and Philosopher-aestheticians 

Since any answer to the question ‘What is art?’ must 
divide itself into two stages, there are two ways in which it 
is liable to go wrong. It may settle the problem of usage 
satisfactorily but break down over the problem of definition; 
or it may deal competently with the problem of definition 
but fail over the problem of usage. These two kinds of 


failure may be described respectively as knowing what you 
are talking about, but talking nonsense; and talking sense 
but not knowing what you are talking about. The first kind 
gives us a treatment which is well informed and to the point, 
but messy and confused ; the second, one which is neat and 
tidy, but irrelevant. 

People who interest themselves in the philosophy of art 
fall roughly into two classes : artists with a leaning towards 
philosophy and philosophers with a taste for art. The artist- 
aesthetician knows what he is talking about. He can discri- 
minate things that are art from things that are pseudo-art, and 
can say what these other things are : what it is that prevents 
them from being art, and what it is that deceives people into 
thinking that they are art. This is art-criticism, which is not 
identical with the philosophy of art, but only with the first 
of the two stages that go to make it up. It is a perfectly 
valid and valuable activity in itself; but the people who are 
good at it are not by any means necessarily able to achieve 
the second stage and offer a definition of art. All they can do 
is to recognize it. This is because they are content with too 
vague an idea of the relations in which art stands to things 
that are not art: I do not mean the various kinds of pseudo- 
art, but things like science, philosophy, and so forth. They 
are content to think of these relations as mere differences. 
To frame a definition of art, it is necessary to think wherein f 
precisely these differences consist. 1 " " ' 

Philosopher-aestheticians are trained to do well just the 
thing that artist-aestheticians do badly. They are admirably 
protected against talking nonsense: but there is no security 
that they will know what they are talking about. Hence 
their theorizing, however competent in itself, is apt to be 
vitiated by weakness in its foundation of fact. They are 
tempted to evade this difficulty by saying: ‘I do not profess 
to be a critic; I am not equal to adjudging the merits of 
Mr. Joyce, Mr. Eliot, Miss Sitwell, or Miss Stein; so I will 
stick to Shakespeare and Michelangelo and Beethoven. 
There is plenty to say about art if one bases it only on the 


acknowledged classics.’ This would be all right for a critic; 
but for a philosopher it will not do. Usage is particular, but 
theory is universal, and the truth at which it aims is index 
sui et falsi. The aesthetician who claims to know what it is 
that makes Shakespeare a poet is tacitly claiming to know 
whether Miss Stein is a poet, and if not, why not. The 
philosopher-aesthetician who sticks to classical artists is 
pretty sure to locate the essence of art not in what makes 
them artists but in what makes them classical, that is, 
acceptable to the academic mind. 

Philosophers’ aesthetic, not having a material criterion 
for the truth of theories in their relation to the facts, can 
only apply a formal criterion. It can detect logical flaws in 
a theory and therefore dismiss it as false; but it can never 
acclaim or propound any theory as true. It is wholly un- 
constructive; tamquam virgo Deo consecrata , nihil parit. Yet 
the fugitive and cloistered virtue of academic aesthetic is not 
without its uses, negative though they are. Its dialectic is a 
school in which the artist-aesthetician or critic can learn the 
lessons that will show him how to advance from art-criticism 
to aesthetic theory. 

§ 3. The Present Situation 

The division between artist-aestheticians and philosopher- 
aestheticians corresponds fairly well with the facts as they 
stood half a century ago, but not with the facts of to-day. 
In the last generation, and increasingly in the last twenty 
years, the gulf between these two classes has been bridged 
by the appearance of a third class of aesthetic theorists: 
poets and painters and sculptors who have taken the trouble 
to train themselves in philosophy or psychology or both, 
and write not with the airs and graces of an essayist or the 
condescension of a hierophant, but with the modesty and 
seriousness of a man contributing to a discussion in which 
others beside himself are speaking, and out of which he 
hopes that truths not yet known even to himself will emerge. 

This is one aspect of a profound change in the way in 


which artists think of themselves and their relation to other 
people. In the later nineteenth century the artist walked 
among us as a superior being, marked off even by his dress 
from common mortals ; too high and ethereal to be questioned 
by others, too sure of his superiority to question himself, 
and resenting the suggestion that the mysteries of his craft 
should be analysed and theorized about by philosophers and 
other profane persons. To-day, instead of forming a mutual 
admiration society whose serene climate was broken from 
time to time by unedifying storms of jealousy, and whose 
aloofness from worldly concerns was marred now and then 
by scandalous contact with the law, artists go about like other 
men, pursuing a business in which they take no more than 
a decent pride, and criticizing each other publicly as to their 
ways of doing it. In this new soil a new growth of aesthetic 
theory has sprung up ; rich in quantity and on the whole high 
in quality. It is too soon to write the history of this move- 
ment, but not too late to contribute to it; and it is only 
because such a movement is going on that a book like this 
can be published with some hope of its being read in the 
spirit in which it is written. 

§ 4. History of the Word ‘Art’ 

In order to clear up the ambiguities attaching to the word 
‘art’, we must look to its history. The aesthetic sense of the 
wqfd'i the sense which here concerns us, is very recent in 
origin. Art in ancient Latin, like t^xvt) in Greek, means 
something quite different. It means a craft or specialized 
form of skill, like carpentry or smithying or surgery. The 
Greeks and Romans had no conception of what we call art 
as something different from craft; what we call art they 
regarded merely as a group of crafts, such as the craft of 
poetry (Tronyrucfi t^xvt), ars foetica ), which they conceived, 
sometimes no doubt with misgivings, as in principle just like ; 
carpentry and the rest, and differing from any one of. these 
only in the sort of way in which any one of them differs 
from any other.;; 


It is difficult for us to realize this fact, and still more so to 
realize its implications. If people have no word for a certain 
kind of thing, it is because they are not aware of it as a 
distinct kind. Admiring as we do the art of the ancient 
Greeks, we naturally suppose that they admired it in the 
same kind of spirit as ourselves.'- But we admire it as a kind 
of art, where the word ‘art’ carries with it all the subtle and 
elaborate implications of the modern European aesthetic 
consciousness. We can be perfectly certain that the Greeks 
did not admire it in any such way. They approached it from 
a different point of view. What this was, we can perhaps 
discover by reading what people like Plato wrote about it; 
but not without great pains, because the first thing every 
modern reader does, when he reads what Plato has to say 
about poetry, is to assume that Plato is describing an aesthetic 
experience similar to our own. The second thing he does is 
to lose his temper because Plato describes it so badly. With 
most readers there is no third stage. 

Ars in medieval Latin, like ‘art’ in the early modern 
English which borrowed both word and sense, meant any 
special form of book-learning, such as grammar or logic, 
magic or astrology. That is still its meaning in the time of 
Shakespeare: ‘lie there, my art’, says Prospero, putting off 
his magic gown. But the Renaissance, first in Italy and 
then elsewhere, re-established the old meaning; and the 
Renaissance artists, like those of the ancient world,' did 
actually think of themselves as craftsmen. It was not until 
the seventeenth century that the problems and conceptions 
of aesthetic began to be disentangled from those of technic 
or the philosophy of craft. In the late eighteenth century 
the disentanglement had gone so far as to establish a distinc- 
tion between the fine arts and the useful arts; where ‘fine’ 
arts meant, not delicate or highly skilled arts, but ‘beautiful’ 
arts (les beaux arts , le belle arti , die schSne Kunst). In the 
nineteenth century this phrase, abbreviated by leaving out 
the epithet and generalized by substituting the singular for 
the distributive plural, became ‘art’. 


At this point the disentanglement of art from craft is 
theoretically complete. But only theoretically. The new use 
of the word ‘art’ is a flag placed on a hill-top by the first 
assailants; it does not prove that the hill-top is effectively 
. occupied. 

§ 5. Systematic Ambiguity 

To make the occupation effective, the ambiguities attach- 
ing to the word must be cleared away and its proper meaning 
brought to light. The proper meaning of a word (I speak 
not of technical terms, which kindly godparents furnish 
soon after birth with neat and tidy definitions, but of words 
in a living language) is never something upon which the 
word sits perched like a gull on a stone; it is something 
over which the word hovers like a gull over a ship’s stern. 
Trying to fix the proper meaning in our minds is like coaxing 
the gull to settle in the rigging, with the rule that the gull 
must be alive when it settles : one must not shoot it and tie it 
there.- The way to discover the proper meaning is to ask not,] 
‘What do we mean?’ but, ‘What are we trying to mean?*) 
And this involves the question ‘What is preventing us from; 
meaning what we are trying to mean ?’ J 

These impediments, the improper meanings, 'which distract 
our minds from the proper one, : are of three kinds. I shall 
call them obsolete meanings, analogical meanings, and 
courtesy meanings. 

The obsolete meanings which every word with a history 
is bound to possess are the meanings it once had, and retains 
by _force of habit. They form a trail behind the word like 
that of a shooting star, and divide themselves according to 
their distance from it into more and less obsolete. The very 
obsolete are not a danger to the present use of the word; 
they are dead and buried, and only the antiquary wishes to 
disinter them. But the less obsolete are a very grave danger. 
They cling to our minds like drowning men, and so jostle 
the present meaning that we can only distinguish it from 
them by the most careful analysis. 


The analogical meanings arise from the fact that when 
we want to discuss the experience of other people we can 
only do so in our own language. Our own language has 
been invented for the purpose of expressing our own ex- 
perience. When we use it for discussing other people’s we 
assimilate their experience to our own. We cannot talk in 
English about the way in which a negro tribe thinks and 
; feels without making them appear to think and feel like 
Englishmen; we cannot explain to our negro friends in their 
own language how Englishmen think and feel without 
making it appear to them that we think and feel like them- 
selves . 1 Or rather, the assimilation of one kind of experience 
to another goes smoothly for a time, but sooner or later a 
break comes, as when we try to represent one kind of curve 
by means of another. When that happens, the person whose 
language is being used thinks that the other has gone more 
or less mad. Thus in studying ancient history we use the 
word ‘state’ without scruple as a translation of ttoAis. But 
the word ‘state’, which comes to us from the Italian Renais- 
sance, was invented to express the new secularized political 
consciousness of the modern world. The Greeks had no 
such experience; their political consciousness was religious 
and political in one; so that what they meant by tt6Ais was 
something which looks to us like a confusion of Church and 
State. We have no words for such a thing, because we do not 
possess the thing. When we use for it words like ‘state’, 
‘political’, and so forth, we are using them not in their proper 
sense, but in an analogical sense. 

Courtesy meanings arise from the fact that the things we 
give names to are the things we regard as important. 
Whatever may be true of scientific technicalities, words in a 
.living language are never used without some practical and 

1 ‘Let the reader consider an y argument that would utterly demolish all 
Zande claims for the power of the oracle. If it were translated into Zande 
modes of thought [which is the same thing as saying, if it were translated 
into the Zande language] it would serve to support their entire structure of 
belief.’ Evans-Pritchard, Witchcraft , Oracles and Magic among the A zande 
( I 937 )» PP- 319-20- 


emotional colouring, which sometimes takes precedence of 
its descriptive function. People claim or disclaim such titles 
as gentleman, or Christian, or communist, either descriptively, 
because they think they have or have not the qualities these 
titles connote ; or emotionally, because they wish to possess 
or not to possess these qualities, and that irrespectively of 
whether they know what they are. The two alternatives are 
very far from being mutually exclusive. But when the descrip- 
tive motive is overshadowed by the emotional one, the word/ 
becomes a courtesy title or discourtesy title as the case may be. * 

§ 6. Plan of Book I 

Applying this to the word ‘art’, we find its proper meaning 
hedged about with well-established obsolete, analogical, and 
courtesy meanings. The only obsolete meaning of any 
importance is that which identifies art with craft. When this 
meaning gets tangled up with the proper one, the result is 
that special error which I call the technical theory of art: 
the theory that art is some kind of craft. The question then, 
of course, arises: What kind of craft is it? and here is vast 
scope for controversy between rival views as to its differentia. 
To that controversy this book will contribute nothing. The 
question is not whether art is this or that kind of craft, but 
whether it is any kind at all. And I do not propose even to re- 
fute the theory that it is some kind of craft. It is not a matter 
that stands in need of demonstration. We all know perfectly 
well that art is not craft; and all I wish to do is to remind the 
reader of the familiar differences which separate the two things. ■ 

Analogically, we use the word ‘art’ of many things which 
in certain ways (important ways, no doubt) resemble what 
we call art in our own modern European world, but in 
other ways are unlike it. The example which I shall consider 
is magical art- I will pause to explain what this means. 

When the naturalistic animal-paintings and sculptures of 
the upper palaeolithic age were discovered in the last century, 
they were hailed as representing a newly found school of art. 
Before long, it was realized that this description implied a 


certain misunderstanding. To call them art implied the 
assumption that they were designed and executed with the 
same purpose as the modern works from which the name 
was extended to them ; and it was found that this assumption 
was false. When Mr. John Skeaping, whose manner is 
obviously indebted to these palaeolithic predecessors, makes 
one of his beautiful animal-drawings, he frames it under 
glass, exhibits it in a place of public resort, expects people to 
go and look at it, and hopes that somebody will buy it, take 
it home, and hang it up to be contemplated and enjoyed by 
himself and his friends. All modern theories of art insist 
that what a work of art is for is to be thus contemplated. 
But when an Aurignacian or Magdalenian painter made 
such a drawing he put it where nobody lived, and often 
where people could never get near it at all without great 
trouble, and on some special occasion; and it appears that 
what he expected them to do was to stab it with spears or 
shoot arrows at it, after which, when it was defaced, he was 
ready to paint another on the top of it. 

If Mr. Skeaping hid his drawings in a coal-cellar and 
expected anybody who found them to shoot them full of 
bullet-holes, aesthetic theorists would say that he was no 
artist, because he intended his drawings for consumption, 
as targets, and not for contemplation, as works of art. By 
the same argument, the palaeolithic paintings are not works 
of art, however much they may resemble them : the resem- 
blance is superficial; what matters is the purpose, and the 
purpose is different. I need not here go into the reasons 
which have led archaeologists to decide that the purpose 
was magical, and that these paintings were accessories in 
some kind of ritual whereby hunters prefigured and so 
ensured the death or capture of the animals depicted . 1 

A similar magical or religious function is recognizable 
elsewhere. The portraits of ancient Egyptian sculpture were 

1 English readers who want to go into the question may consult Count 
Begouen, ‘The Magical Origin of Prehistoric Art’, in Antiquity, iii (1929), 
pp. 5—19, and Baldwin Brown, The Art of the Cave-Dweller (1928). 


not designed for exhibition and contemplation; they were 
hidden away in the darkness of the tomb, unvisited, where 
no spectator could see them, but where they could do their 
magical work, whatever precisely that was, uninterrupted. 
Roman portraiture was derived from the images of ancestors 
which, keeping watch over the domestic life of their posterity, 
had a magical or religious purpose to which their artistic 
qualities were subservient. Greek drama and Greek sculpture 
began as accessories t>f religious cult. And the entire body of 
medieval Christian art shows the same purpose. 

The terms ‘art’, ‘artist’, ‘artistic’, and so forth are much 
used as courtesy titles. When we consider in bulk the things 
which claim them, but, on the whole, claim them without 
real justification, it becomes apparent that the thing which 
most constantly demands and receives the courtesy title of 
art is the thing whose real name is amusement or entertain- 
ment. The vast majority of our literature in prose and verse,, 
our painting and drawing and sculpture, our music, our, 
dancing and acting, and so forth, is quite plainly and often : 
quite explicitly designed to amuse, but is called art. Yet we 
know that there is a distinction, , The gramophone trade, a 
recent one which has the outspokenness of an enfant terrible , 
actually states the distinction, or tries to, in its catalogues. 
Nearly all its records are issued frankly as amusement music; 
the small remainder is marked off as ‘connoisseur’s records’ 
or the like. Painters and novelists make the same distinction, 
but not so publicly. 

This is a fact of great interest for the aesthetic theorist, 
because, unless he grasps it, it may debauch his conception of 
art itself by causing him to identify art proper with amuse- 
ment; and of equal interest to the historian of art, or rather 
of civilization as a whole, because it concerns him to under- 
stand the place which amusement occupies in relation to art 
and to civilization in general. 

Our first business, then, is to investigate these three kinds 
of art falsely so called. When that has been done, we must 
see what there is left to be said about art proper. 




§ i. The Meaning of Craft 

The first sense of the word ‘art’ to be distinguished from art 
proper is the obsolete sense in which it means what in this 
book I shall call craft. This is what ars means in ancient 
Latin, and what -ftxvri means in Greek : the power to produce 
a preconceived result by means of consciously controlled and 
directed action. In order to take the first step towards a 
sound aesthetic, it is necessary to disentangle the notion of 
craft from that of art proper. In order to do this, again, we 
must first enumerate the chief characteristics of craft. 

(1) Craft always involves a distinction between means and 
end, each clearly conceived as something distinct from the 
other but related to it. The term ‘means’ is loosely applied 
to things that are used in order to reach the end, such as 
tools, machines, or fuel. Strictly, it applies not to the things 
but to the actions concerned with them: manipulating the 
tools, tending the machines, or burning the fuel. These 
actions (as implied by the literal sense of the word means) 
are passed through or traversed in order to reach the end, and 
are left behind when the end is reached. This may serve to 
distinguish the idea of means from two other ideas with 
which it is sometimes confused: that of part, and that of 
material. The relation of part to vhole is like that of means 
to end, in that the part is indispensable to the whole, is what 
it is because of its relation to the whole, and may exist by 
itself before the whole comes into existence; but when the 
whole exists the part exists too, whereas, when the end 
exists, the means have ceased to exist. As for the idea of 
material, we shall return to that in (4) below. 

(2) It involves a distinction between planning and execu- 
tion. The result to be obtained is preconceived or thought 
out before being arrived at. The craftsman knows what he 

wants to make before he makes it. This foreknowledge is 
absolutely indispensable to craft: if something, for example 
stainless steel, is made without such foreknowledge, the 
making of it is not a case of craft but an accident. Moreover, 
this foreknowledge is not vague but precise. If a person sets 
out to make a table, but conceives the table only vaguely, as 
somewhere between two by four feet and three by six, and 
between two and three feet high, and so forth, he is no 
craftsman. • 

(3) Means and end are related in one way in the process 
of planning; in the opposite way in the process of execution. 
In planning the end is prior to the means. The end is 
thought out first, and afterwards the means are thought out. 
In execution the means come first, and the end is reached 
through them. 

(4) There is a distinction between raw material and 
finished product or artifact. A craft is always exercised upon 
something, and aims at the transformation of this into some- 
thing different. That upon which it works begins as raw 
material and ends as finished product. The raw material is 
found ready made before the special work of the craft begins. 

(5) There is a distinction between form and matter. The 
matter is what is identical in the raw material and the 
finished product; the form is what is different, what the 
exercise of the craft changes. To describe the raw material 
as raw is not to imply that it is formless, but only that it has 
not yet the form which it is to acquire through ‘transforma- 
tion’ into finished product. 

(6) There is a hierarchical relation between various crafts, 
one supplying what another needs, one using what another 
provides. There are three kinds of hierarchy: of materials, 
of means, and of parts. ( a ) The raw material of one craft is 
the finished product of another. Thus the silviculturist pro- 
pagates trees and looks after them as they grow, in order to 
provide raw material for the felling-men who transform them 
into logs ; these are raw material for the saw-mill which trans- 
forms them into planks; and these, after a further process 


of selection and seasoning, become raw material for a joiner. 
(b) In the hierarchy of means, one craft supplies another with 
tools. Thus the timber-merchant supplies pit-props to the 
miner; the miner supplies coal to the blacksmith; the black- 
smith supplies horseshoes to the farmer ; and so on. (c) In the 
hierarchy of parts, a complex operation like the manufacture 
of a motor-car is parcelled out among a number of trades: 
one firm makes the engine, another the gears, another the 
chassis, another the* tyres, another the electrical equipment, 
and so on; the final assembling is not strictly the manufacture 
of the car but only the bringing together of these parts. In 
one or more of these ways every craft has a hierarchical 
character; either as hierarchically related to other crafts, or 
" as itself consisting of various heterogeneous operations hier- 
archically related among themselves. 

Without claiming that these features together exhaust the 
notion of craft, or that each of them separately is peculiar to 
it, we may claim with tolerable confidence that where most 
of them are absent from a certain activity that activity is not 
a craft, and, if it is called by that name, is so called either by 
mistake or in a vague and inaccurate way. 

§2. The Technical Theory of Art 

It was the Greek philosophers who worked out the idea 
of craft, and it is in their writings that the above distinctions 
have been expounded once for all. The philosophy of craft, 
in fact, was one of the greatest and most solid achievements 
of the Greek mind, or at any rate of that school, from 
Socrates to Aristotle, whose work happens to have been 
most completely preserved. 

Great discoveries seem to their makers even greater than 
they are. A person who has solved one problem is inevitably 
led to apply that solution to others. Once the Socratic 
school had laid down the main lines of a theory of craft, they 
were bound to look for instances of craft in all sorts of likely 
and unlikely places. To show how they met this temptation, 
here yielding to it and there resisting it, or first yielding to it 


and then laboriously correcting their error, would need a long 
essay. Two brilliant cases of successful resistance may, 
however, be mentioned: Plato’s demonstration ( Republic , 
330 D-336 a) that justice is not a craft, with the pendant 
(336 E-3 $4 a) that injustice is not one either; and Aristotle’s 
rejection ( Meta-physics , A) of the view stated in Plato’s 
Timaeus , that the relation between God and the world is a 
case of the relation between craftsman and artifact. 

When they came to deal with aesthetic problems, however, 
both Plato and Aristotle yielded to the temptation. They 
took it for granted that poetry, the only art which they dis- 
cussed in detail, was a kind of craft, and spoke of this craft 
as TronyriKri -rfyvri, poet-craft. What kind of craft was this ? 

There are some crafts, like cobbling, carpentering, or 
weaving, whose end is to produce a certain type of artifact; 
others, like agriculture or stock-breeding or horse-breaking, 
whose end is to produce or improve certain non-human 
types of organism; others again, like medicine or education 
or warfare, whose end is to bring certain human beings into 
certain states of body or mind. But we need not ask which 
of these is the genus of which poet-craft is a species, because 
they are not mutually exclusive. The cobbler or carpenter 
or weaver is not simply trying to produce shoes or carts or 
cloth. He produces these because there is a demand for 
them; that is, they are not ends to him, but means to the end 
of satisfying a specific demand. What he is really aiming at 
is the production of a certain state of mind in his customers, 
the state of having these demands satisfied. The same 
analysis applies to the second group. Thus in the end these 
three kinds of craft reduce to one. They are all ways of 
bringing human beings into certain desired conditions. 

The same description is true of poet-craft. The poet 
is a kind of skilled producer; he produces for consumers; 
and the effect of his skill is to bring about in them certain 
states of mind, which are conceived in advance as desirable 
states. The poet, like any other kind of craftsman, must 
know what effect he is aiming at, and must learn by 


experience and precept, which is only the imparted ex- 
perience of others, how to produce it. This is poet-craft, as 
conceived by Plato and Aristotle and, following them, such 
writers as Horace in his An Poetica. There will be analogous 
crafts of painting, sculpture, and so forth; music, at least 
for Plato, is not a separate art but is a constituent part of 

I have gone back to the ancients, because their thought, 
in this matter as in so many others, has left permanent traces 
on our own, both for good and for ill. There are suggestions 
in some of them, especially in Plato, of a quite different view; 
but this is the one which they have made familiar, and upon 
which both the theory and the practice of the arts has for 
the most part rested down to the present time. Present-day 
fashions of thought have in some ways even tended to re- 
inforce it. We are apt nowadays to think about most 
problems, including those of art, in terms either of economics 
or of psychology ; and both ways of thinking tend to subsume 
the philosophy of art under the philosophy of craft. To the ^ 
economist, art presents the appearance of a specialized group j > 
of industries; the artist is a producer, his audience consumers i 
who pay him for benefits ultimately definable in terms of the j 
states of mind which his productivity enables them to enjoy, j 
To the psychologist, the audience consists of persons reacting j 
in certain ways to stimuli provided by the artist; and the ; 
artist’s business is to know what reactions are desired or j 
desirable, and to provide the stimuli which will elicit them. , 

The technical theory of art is thus by no means a matter 
of merely antiquarian interest. It is actually the way in 
which most people nowadays think of art; and especially 
economists and psychologists, the people to whom we look 
(sometimes in vain) for special guidance in the problems of 
modern life. 

But this theory is simply a vulgar error, as anybody can 
see who looks at it with a critical eye. It does not matter 
what kind of craft in particular is identified with art. It does 
not matter what the benefits are which the artist is regarded 


as conferring on his audience, or what the reactions are which 
he is supposed to elicit. Irrespectively of such details, our 
question is whether art is any kind of craft at all. It is easily 
answered by keeping in mind the half-dozen characteristics 
of craft enumerated in the preceding section, and asking 
whether they fit the case of art. And there must be no chopping 
of toes or squeezing of heels ; the fit must be immediate and 
convincing. It is better to have no theory of art at all, than 
to have one which irks us from the first. . 

§ 3. Break-down of the Theory 

(x) The first characteristic of craft is the distinction 
between means and end. Is this present in works of art? 
According to the technical theory, yes. A poem is means 
to the production of a certain state of mind in the audience, 
as a horseshoe is means to the production of a certain 
state of mind in the man whose horse is shod. And the 
poem in its turn will be an end to which other things are 
means. In the case of the horseshoe, this stage of the analy- 
sis is easy: we can enumerate lighting the forge, cutting 
a piece of iron off a bar, heating it, and so on. What is there 
analogous to these processes in the case of a poem? The 
poet may get paper and pen, fill the pen, sit down and square 
his elbows; but these actions are preparatory not to com- 
position (which may go on in the poet’s head) but to writing. 
Suppose the poem is a short one, and composed without the 
use of any writing materials; what are the means by which 
the poet composes it? I can think of no answer, unless 
comic answers are wanted, such as ‘using a rhyming dic- 
tionary’, ‘pounding his foot on the floor or wagging his 
head or hand to mark the metre’, or ‘getting drunk’. If one 
looks at the matter seriously, one sees that the only factors 
in the situation are the poet, the poetic labour of his mind, 
and the poem. And if any supporter of the technical theory 
says ‘Right: then the poetic labour is the means, the poem 
the end’, we shall ask him to find a blacksmith who can make 
a horseshoe by sheer labour, without forge, anvil, hammer, 


or tongs. It is because nothing corresponding to these exists 
in the case of the poem that the poem is not an end to which 
there are means. 

Conversely, is a poem means to the production of a certain 
state of mind in an audience ? Suppose a poet had read his 
verses . to an audience, hoping that they would produce 
a certain result; and suppose the result were different; would 
that in itself prove the poem a bad one? It is a difficult 
question ; some would say yes, others no. But if poetry were 
obviously a craft, the answer would be a prompt and un- 
hesitating yes. The advocate of the technical theory must do 
a good deal of toe-chopping before he can get his facts to 
fit his theory at this point. 

So far, the prospects of the technical theory are not too 
bright. Let us proceed.] 

( 2 ) The distinction between planning and executing cer- 
tainly exists in some works of art, namely those which are 
also works of craft or artifacts; for there is, of course, an 
overlap between these two things, as may be seen by the 
example of a building or a jar, which is made to order for 
the satisfaction of a specific demand, to serve a useful pur- 
pose, but may none the less be a work of art. But suppose 
a poet were making up verses as he walked; suddenly finding 
a line in his head, and then another, and then dissatisfied 
with them and altering them until he had got them to his 
liking: what is the plan which he is executing ? He may have 
had a vague idea that if he went for a walk he would be able 
to compose poetry; but what were, so to speak, the measure- 
ments -and specifications of the poem he planned to compose? 
He may, no doubt, have been hoping to compose a sonnet 
on a particular subject specified by the editor of a review; but 
the point is that he may not, and that he is none the less 

u- P uj 0r com P osin g without having any definite plan in 
his head. Or suppose a sculptor were not making a Madonna 
and child, three feet high, in Hoptonwood stone, guaranteed 
to placate the chancellor of the diocese and obtain a faculty 
for placing it in the vacant niche over a certain church door; 


but were simply playing about with clay, and found the clay 
under his fingers turning into a little dancing man: is this 
not a work of art because it was done without being planned 
in advance? 

All this is very familiar. There would be no need to insist 
upon it, but that the technical theory of art relies on our 
forgetting it. While we are thinking of it, let us note the 
importance of not over-emphasizing it. Art as such does not 
imply the distinction between planning and execution. But 

(a) this is a merely negative characteristic, not a positive one. 
We must not erect the absence of plan into a positive force 
and call it inspiration, or the unconscious, or the like. 

(b) It is a permissible characteristic of art, not a compulsory 
one. If unplanned works of art are possible, it does not 
follow that no planned work is a work of art. That is the 
logical fallacy 1 that underlies one, or some, of the various 
things called romanticism. It may very well be true that the 
only works of art which can be made altogether without 
a plan are trifling ones, and that the greatest and most 
serious ones always contain an element of planning and 
therefore an element of craft. But that would not justify the 
technical theory of art. 

(3) If neither means and end nor planning and execution 
can be distinguished in art proper, there obviously can be 
no reversal of order as between means and end, in planning 
and execution respectively, 

(4) We next come to the distinction between raw material 
and finished product. Does this exist in art proper ? If so, 
a poem is made out of certain raw material. What is the raw 
material out of which Ben Jonson made Queene and Huntress e, 

1 It is an example of what I have elsewhere called the fallacy of precarious 
margins. Because art and craft overlap, the essence of art is sought not in 
the positive characteristics of all art, but in the characteristics of those works 
of art which are not works of craft. Thus the only things which are allowed 
to be works of art are those marginal examples which lie outside the overlap 
of art and craft. This is a precarious margin because further study may at 
any moment reveal the characteristics of craft in some of these examples. 
See Essay on Philosophical Method. 


chaste, and faire ? Words, perhaps. Well, what words? 
A smith makes a horseshoe not out of all the iron there is, but 
out of a certain piece of iron, cut off a certain bar that he 
keeps’ in the corner of the smithy. If Ben Jonson did any- 
thing at all like that, he said: ‘I want to make a nice little 
hymn to open Act v, Scene vi of Cynthia's Revels. Here is 
the English language, or as much of it as I know; I will use 
thy five times, to four times, and, bright, excellently , and 
goddesse three times each, and so on.’ He did nothing like 
this. The words which occur in the poem were never before 
his mind as a whole in an order different from that of the 
poem, out of which he shuffled them till the poem, as we have 
it, appeared. I do not deny that by sorting out the words, 
or the vowel sounds, or the consonant sounds, in a poem 
like this, we can make interesting and (I believe) important 
discoveries about the way in which Ben Jonson’s mind 
worked when he made the poem; and I am willing to allow 
that the technical theory of art is doing good service if it 
leads people to explore these matters; but if it can only 
express what it is trying to do by calling these words or 
sounds the materials out of which the poem is made, it is 
talking nonsense. 

But perhaps there is a raw material of another kind: a 
feeling or emotion, for example, which is present to the 
poet’s mind at the commencement of his labour, and which 
that labour converts into the poem. ‘Aus meinem grossen 
Schmerzen mach’ ich die kleinen Lieder’, said Heine; and 
he was doubtless right; the poet’s labour can be justly 
described as converting emotions into poems. But this con- 
version is a very different kind of thing from the conversion 
of iron into horseshoes. If the two kinds of conversion were 
the same, a blacksmith could make horseshoes out of his 
desire to pay the rent. The something more, over and above 
that desire, which he must have in order to make horseshoes 
out of it, is the iron which is their raw material. In the poet’s 
case that something more does not exist. 

(5) In every work of art there is something which, in 


some sense of the word, may be called form. There is, to be 
rather more precise, something in the nature of rhythm, 
pattern, organization, design, or structure. But it does not 
follow that there is a distinction between form and rfiatter. 
Where that distinction does exist, namely, in artifacts, the 
matter was there in the shape of raw material before the 
form was imposed upon it, and the form was there in 
the shape of a preconceived plan before being imposed upon 
the matter; and as the two coexist iif the finished product 
we can see how the matter might have accepted a different 
form, or the form have been imposed upon a different 
matter. None of these statements applies to a work of art. 
Something was no doubt there before a poem came into 
being; there was, for example, a confused excitement in the 
poet’s mind; but, as we have seen, this was not the raw 
material of the poem. There was also, no doubt, the impulse 
to write; but this impulse was not the form of the unwritten 
poem. And when the poem is written, there is nothing in it 
of which we can say, ‘this is a matter which might have taken 
on a different form’, or ‘this is a form which might have 
been realized in a different matter’. 

When people have spoken of matter and form in con- 
nexion with art, or of that strange hybrid distinction, form 
and content, they have in fact been doing one of two things, 
or both confusedly at once. Either they have been assi- 
milating a work of art to an artifact, and the artist’s work to 
the craftsman’s; or else they have been using these terms 
in a vaguely metaphorical way as means of referring to distinc- 
tions which really do exist in art, but are of a different kind. 
There is always in art a distinction between what is expressed 
and that which expresses it; there is a distinction between 
the initial impulse to write or paint or compose and the 
finished poem or picture or music; there is a distinction 
between an emotional element in the artist’s experience and 
what may be called an intellectual element. All these deserve 
investigation; but none of them is a case of the distinction 
between form and matter. 


(6) Finally, there is in art nothing which resembles the 
hierarchy of crafts, each dictating ends to the one below it, 
and providing either means or raw materials or parts to the 
one above. When a poet writes verses for a musician to set, - 
these verses are not means to the musician’s end, for they 
are incorporated in the song which is the musician’s finished 
product, and it is characteristic of means, as we saw, to be 
left behind. But neither are they raw materials. The musi- 
cian does not transform them into music; he sets them to 
music; and if the music which he writes for them had a raw 
material (which it has not), that raw material could not 
consist of verses. What happens is rather that the poet and 
musician collaborate to produce a work of art which owes 
something to each of them ; and this is true even if in the 
poet’s case there was no intention of collaborating. 

Aristotle extracted from the notion of a hierarchy of 
crafts the notion of a supreme craft, upon which all hierarch- 
ical series converged, so that the various ‘goods’ which all 
crafts produce played their part, in one way or another, in 
preparing for the work of this supreme craft, whose product 
could, therefore, be called the ‘supreme good’. 1 At first sight, 
one might fancy an echo of this in Wagner’s theory of opera 
as the supreme art, supreme because it combines the beauties 
of music and poetry and drama, the arts of time and the 
arts of space, into a single whole. But, quite apart from the 
question whether Wagner’s opinion of opera as the greatest 
of the arts is justified, this opinion does not really rest on the 
idea of a hierarchy of arts. Words, gestures, music, scenery 
are not means to opera, nor yet raw materials of it, but parts 
of it; the hierarchies of means and materials may therefore 
be ruled out, and only that of parts remains. But even this 
does not apply. Wagner thought himself a supremely great 
artist because he wrote not only his music but his words, 
designed his scenery, and acted as his own producer. This 
is the exact opposite of a system like that by which motor- 
cars are made, which owes its hierarchical character to the 
1 Nicomackean Ethics, beginning: 1094 a i-b 10. 


fact that the various parts are all made by different firms, 

each specializing in work of one kind. 

§ 4. Technique 

As soon as we take the notion of craft seriously, it is 
perfectly obvious that art proper cannot be any kind of craft. 
Most people who write about art to-day seem to think that 
it is some kind of craft; and this is the main error against 
which a modern aesthetic theory mtfst fight. Even those 
who do not openly embrace the error itself, embrace doc- 
trines implying it. One such doctrine is that of artistic 

The doctrine may be stated as follows. The artist must 
have a certain specialized form of skill, which is called 
technique. He acquires his skill just as a craftsman does, 
partly through personal experience and partly through shar- 
ing in the experience of others who thus become his teachers. 
The technical skill which he thus acquires does not by itself 
make him an artist; for a technician is made, but an artist 
is born. Great artistic powers may produce fine works of 
art even though technique is defective; and even the most 
finished technique will not produce the finest sort of work 
in their absence ; but all the same, no work of art whatever 
can be produced without some degree of technical skill, and, 
other things being equal, the better the technique the better 
will be the work of art. The greatest artistic powers, for 
their due and proper display, demand a technique as good 
in its kind as they are in their own. 

All this, properly understood, is very true; and, as a 
criticism of the sentimental notion that works of art can be 
produced by any one, however little trouble he has taken 
to learn his job, provided his heart is in the right place, 
very salutary. And since a writer on art is for the most part 
addressing himself not to artists, but to amateurs of art, he 
does well to insist on what every artist knows, but most 
amateurs do not: the vast amount of intelligent and pur- 
poseful labour, the painful and conscientious self-discipline, 


that has gone to the making of a man who can write a 
line as Pope writes it, or knock a single chip off a single 
stone like Michelangelo. It is no less true, and no less 
important, that the skill here displayed (allowing the 
word skill to pass for the moment unchallenged), though a 
necessary condition of the best art, is not by itself sufficient 
to produce it. A high degree of such skill is shown in 
Ben Jonson’s poem; and a critic might, not unfruitfully, 
display this skill by analysing the intricate and ingenious 
patterns of rhythm and rhyme, alliteration, assonance, and 
dissonance, which the poem contains. But what makes Ben 
Jonson a poet, and a great one, is not his skill to construct 
such patterns but his imaginative vision of the goddess and 
her attendants, for whose expression it was worth his while 
to use that skill, and for whose enjoyment it is worth our 
while to study the patterns he has constructed. Miss Edith 
Sitwell, whose distinction both as poet and critic needs no 
commendation, and whose analyses of sound-pattern in 
poetry are as brilliant as her own verse, has analysed in this 
way the patterns constructed by Mr. T. S. Eliot, and has 
written warmly of the skill they exemplify; but when she 
wishes conclusively to compare his greatness with the little- 
ness of certain other poets who are sometimes ridiculously 
fancied his equals, she ceases to praise his technique, and 
writes, ‘here we have a man who has talked with fiery angels, 
and with angels of a clear light and holy peace, and who has 
“walked amongst the lowest of the dead”’. 1 It is this 
experience, she would have us understand, that is the heart 
of his poetry; it is the ‘enlargement of our experience’ by his 
own (a favourite phrase of hers, and one never used without 
illumination to her readers) that tells us he is a true poet; 
and however necessary it may be that a poet should have 
technical skill, he is a poet only in so far as this skill is not 
identified with art, but with something used in the service 
of art. 

This is not the old Greco-Roman theory of poet-craft, 
1 Aspects of Modem Poetry , ch. v and p. 251. 


but a modified and restricted version of it. When we 
examine it, however, we shall find that although it has 
moved away from the old poet-craft theory in order to avoid 
its errors, it has not moved far enough. 

When the poet is described as possessing technical skill, 
this means that he possesses something of the same nature 
as what goes by that name in the case of a technician proper 
or craftsman. It implies that the thing so called in the case 
of a poet stands to the production of*his poem as the skill 
of a joiner stands to the production of a table. If it does not 
mean this, the words are being used in some obscure sense; 
either an esoteric sense which people who use them are 
deliberately concealing from their readers, or (more prob- 
ably) a sense which remains obscure even to themselves. 
We will assume that the people who use this language take 
it seriously, and wish to abide by its implications. 

The craftsman’s skill is his knowledge of the means 
necessary to realize a given end, and his mastery of these 
means. A joiner making a table shows his skill by knowing 
what materials and what tools are needed to make it, and 
being able to use these in such a way as to produce the table 
exactly as specified. 

The theory of poetic technique implies that in the first 
place a poet has certain experiences which demand expres- 
sion; then he conceives the possibility of a poem in which 
they might be expressed; then this poem, as an unachieved 
end, demands for its realization the exercise of certain 
powers or forms of skill, and these constitute the poet’s 
technique. There is an element of truth in this. It is true 
that the making of a poem begins in the poet’s having an 
experience which demands expression in the form of a poem. 
But the description of the unwritten poem as an end to 
which his technique is means is false; it implies that before 
he has written his poem he knows, and could state, the 
specification of it in the kind of way in which a joiner knows 
the specification of a table he is about to make. This is always 
true of a craftsman; it is therefore true of an artist in those 


cases where the work of art is also a work of craft. But it is 
wholly untrue of the artist in those cases where the work of 
art is not a work of craft; the poet extemporizing his verses, 
the sculptor playing with his clay, and so forth. In these 
cases (which after all are cases of art, even though possibly 
of art at a relatively humble level) the artist has no idea what 
the experience is which demands expression until he has 
expressed it. What he wants to say is not present to him as 
an end towards which’means have to be devised; it becomes 
clear to him only as the poem takes shape in his mind, or 
the clay in his fingers. 

Some relic of this condition survives even in the most 
elaborate, most reflective, most highly planned works of art. 
That is a problem to which we must return in another 
chapter: the problem of reconciling the unreflective spon- 
taneity of art in its simplest forms with the massive intel- 
lectual burden that is carried by great works of art such as the 
Agamemnon or the Divina Commedia. For the present, we 
are dealing with a simpler problem. We are confronted 
with what professes to be a theory of art in general. To 
prove it false we need only show that there are admitted 
examples of art to which it does not apply. 

In describing the power by which an artist constructs 
patterns in words or notes or brush-marks by the name of 
technique, therefore, this theory is misdescribing it by 
assimilating it to the skill by which a craftsman constructs 
appropriate means to a preconceived end. The patterns 
are no doubt real ; the power by which the artist constructs 
them is no doubt a thing worthy of our attention; but we are 
only frustrating our study of it in advance if we approach 
it in the determination to treat it as if it were the conscious 
working-out of means to the achievement of a conscious 
purpose, or in other words technique. 

§ 5. Art as a Psychological Stimulus 

The modern conception of artistic technique, as stated 
or implied in the writings of critics, may be unsuccessful; 

4436 D 


but it is a serious attempt to overcome the weaknesses of the 
old poet-craft theory, by admitting that a work of art as 
such is not an artifact, because its creation involves elements 
which cannot be subsumed under the conception of craft; 
while yet maintaining that there is a grain of truth in that 
•theory, because among the elements involved in the creation 
of a work of art there is one which can be thus subsumed, 
namely, the artist’s technique. We have seen that this will 
not do; but at least the people who put it forward have been 
working at the subject. 

The same cannot be said about another attempt to re- 
habilitate the technical theory of art, namely, that of a very 
large school of modern psychologists, and of critics who 
adopt their way of speaking. Here the entire work of art 
is conceived as an artifact, designed (when a sufficient degree 
of skill is present to justify the word) as means to the realiza- 
tion of an end beyond it, namely, a state of mind in the artist’s 
audience. In order to affect his audience in a certain way, 
the artist addresses them in a certain manner, by placing 
before them a certain work of art. In so far as he is a com- 
petent artist, one condition at least is fulfilled: the work of 
art does affect them as he intends it should. There is a 
second condition which may be fulfilled: the state of mind 
thus aroused in them may be in one way or another a valuable 
state of mind; one that enriches their lives, and thus gives 
him a claim not only on their admiration but also on their 

The first thing to notice about this stimulus-and-reaction 
theory of art is that it is not new. It is the theory of the tenth 
book of Plato’s Republic , of Aristotle’s Poetics , and of 
Horace’s Ars Poetica. The psychologists who make use of 
it have, knowingly or unknowingly, taken over the poet- 
craft doctrine bodily, with no suspicion of the devastating 
criticism it has received at the hands of aestheticians in the 
last few centuries. 

This is not because their views have been based on a study 
of Plato and Aristotle, to the neglect of more modern authors. 


It is because, like good inductive scientists, they have kept 
their eye on the facts, but (a disaster against which inductive 
methods afford no protection) the wrong facts. Their theory 
of art is based on a study of art falsely so called. 

There are numerous cases in which somebody claiming 
the title of artist deliberately sets himself to arouse certain 
states of mind in his audience. The funny man who lays 
himself out to get a laugh has at his command a number of 
well-tried methods fop getting it; the purveyor of sob-stuff 
is in a similar case; the political or religious orator has a 
definite end before him and adopts definite means for 
achieving it, and so on. We might even attempt a rough 
classification of these ends. 1 First, the ‘artist’s’ purpose may 
be to arouse a certain kind of emotion. The emotion may be 
of almost any kind ; a more important distinction emerges 
according as it is aroused simply for its own sake, as an enjoy- 
able experience, or for the sake of its value in the affairs of 
practical life. The funny man and the sob-stuff monger fall 
on one side in this division, the political and religious orator 
on the other. Secondly, the purpose may be to stimulate 
certain intellectual activities. These again may be of very 
various kinds, but they may be stimulated with either of two 
motives: either because the objects upon which they are 
directed are thought of as worth understanding, or because 
the activities themselves are thought of as worth pursuing, 
even though they lead to nothing in the way of knowledge 
that is of importance. Thirdly, the purpose may be to 
stimulate a certain kind of action; here again with two 
kinds of motive: either because the action is conceived as 
expedient, or because it is conceived as right. 

Here are six kinds of art falsely so called ; called by that 
name because they are kinds of craft in which the practi- 

1 The reason why I call it a rough classification is because you cannot 
really ‘stimulate intellectual activities’, or ‘stimulate certain kinds of action’, \ 
in a man. Anybody who says you can, has not thought about the conditions! 
under which alone these things can arise. Foremost among these conditions j 
is this: that they must be absolutely spontaneous. Consequently they cannot 
be responses to stimulus. 


tioner can by the use of his skill evoke a desired psychological 
reaction in his audience, and hence they come under the 
obsolete, but not yet dead and buried, conception of poet- 
craft, painter-craft, and so forth; falsely so called, b’ecause 
the distinction of means and end, upon which every one of 
them rests, does not belong to art proper. 

Let us give the six their right names. Where an emotion 
is aroused for its own sake, as an enjoyable experience, the 
craft of arousing it is amusement; where for the sake of its 
practical value, magic (the meaning of that word will be 
explained in chapter IV). Where intellectual faculties are 
stimulated for the mere sake of their exercise, the work 
designed to stimulate them is a puzzle; where for the sake 
of knowing this or that thing, it is instruction. Where a 
certain practical activity is stimulated as expedient, that which 
stimulates it is advertisement or (in the current modern 
sense, not the old sense) propaganda; where it is stimulated 
as right, exhortation. 

These six between them, singly or in combination, pretty 
well exhaust the function of whatever in the modern world 
wrongfully usurps the name of art. None of them has 
anything to do with art proper. This is not because (as 
Oscar Wilde said, with his curious talent for just missing a 
truth and then giving himself a prize for hitting it) ‘all art 
is quite useless’, for it is not; a work of art may very well 
amuse, instruct, puzzle, exhort, and so forth, without ceasing 
to be art, and in these ways it may be very useful indeed. It is 
because, as Oscar Wilde perhaps meant to say, what makes 
it art is not the same as what makes it useful. Deciding what 
psychological reaction a so-called work of art produces (for 
example, asking yourself how a certain poem ‘makes you 
feel’) has nothing whatever to do with deciding whether it 
is a real work of art or not. Equally irrelevant is the question 
what psychological reaction it is meant to produce. 

The classification of psychological reactions produced by 
poems, pictures, music, or the like is thus not a classification 
of kinds of art. It is a classification of kinds of pseudo-art. 


But the term ‘pseudo-art’ means something that is not art 
but is mistaken for art; and something that is not art can be 
mistaken for it only if there is some ground for the mistake : 
if the thing mistaken for art is akin to art in such a way that 
the mistake easily arises. What must this kinship be ? We 
have already seen in the last chapter that there may be a 
combination of, for example, art with religion, of such a 
kind that the artistic motive, though genuinely present, is 
subordinated to the religious. To call the result of such 
a combination art, tout court , would be to invite the reply, ‘it 
is not art but religion’; that is, the accusation that what is 
simply religion is being mistaken for art. But such a mistake 
could never in fact be made. What happens is that a com- 
bination of art and religion is elliptically called art, and then 
characteristics which it possesses not as art but as religion 
are mistakenly supposed to belong to it as art. 

So here. These various kinds of pseudo-art are in reality 
various kinds of use to which art may be put. In order that 
any of these purposes may be realized, there must first be 
art, and then a subordination of art to some utilitarian end. 
Unless a man can write, he cannot write propaganda. 
Unless he can draw, he cannot become a comic draughts- 
man or an advertisement artist. These activities have in 
every case developed through a process having two phases. 
First, there is writing or drawing or whatever it may be, 
pursued as an art for its own sake, going its own way 
and developing its own proper nature, caring for none of 
these things. Then this independent and self-sufficient art 
is broken, as it were, to the plough, forced aside from its 
own original nature and enslaved to the service of an end 
not its own. Here lies the peculiar tragedy of the artist’s 
position in the modern world. He is heir to a tradition from 
which he has learnt what art should be; or at least, what it 
cannot be. He has heard its call and devoted himself to its 
service. And then, when the time comes for him to demand 
of society that it should support him in return for his 
devotion to a purpose which, after all, is not his private 


purpose but one among the purposes of modern civilization, 
he finds that his living is guaranteed only on condition that 
he renounces his calling and uses the art which he has ac- 
quired in a way which negates its fundamental nature, by 
turning journalist or advertisement artist or the like; a 
degradation far more frightful than the prostitution or 
enslavement of the mere body. 

Even in this denatured condition the arts are never 
mere means to the ends imposed upon them. For means 
rightly so called are devised in relation to the end aimed at; 
but here, there must first be literature, drawing, and so 
forth, before they can be turned to the purposes described. 
Hence it is a fundamental and fatal error to conceive art 
itself as a means to any of these ends, even when it is broken 
to their service. It is an error much encouraged by modern 
tendencies in psychology, and influentially taught at the 
present day by persons in a position of academic authority; 
but after all, it is only a new version, tricked out in the 
borrowed plumage of modern science, of the ancient fallacy 
that the arts are kinds of craft. 

If it can deceive even its own advocates, that is only 
because they waver from one horn of a dilemma to the other. 
Their theory admits of two alternatives. Either the stimula- 
tion of certain reactions in its audience is the essence of art, 
or it is a consequence arising out of its essence in certain 
circumstances. Take the first alternative. If art is art only 
so far as it stimulates certain reactions, the artist as such is 
simply a purveyor of drugs, noxious or wholesome; what 
we call works of art are nothing but a section of the Pharma- 
copoeia . 1 If we ask on what principle that branch can be 
distinguished from others, there can be no answer. 

This is not a theory of art. It is not an aesthetic but an 
anti-aesthetic. If it is presented as a true account of its 
advocates’ experience, we must accept it as such; but with 
the implication that its advocates have no aesthetic experience 
whatever, or at least none so robust as to leave a mark on 
1 Cf. D. G. James, Scepticism and Poetry (1937). 


their minds deep enough to be discernible when they turn 
their eyes inward and try to recognize its main features . 1 
It is, of course, quite possible to look at pictures, listen to 
music; and read poetry without getting any aesthetic ex- 
perience from these things; and the exposition of this 
psychological theory of art may be illustrated by a great 
deal of talk about particular works of art; but if this is really 
connected with the theory, it is no more to be called art- 
criticism or aesthetic- theory than the annual strictures in 
The Tailor and Cutter on the ways in which Academy portrait- 
painters represent coats and trousers. If it attempts to 
develop itself as a method of art-criticism, it can only 
(except when it forgets its own principles) rely on anti- 
aesthetic standards, as when it tries to estimate the objective 
merits of a given poem by tabulating the ‘reactions’ to it of 
persons from whom the poet’s name has been concealed, 
irrespective of their skill or experience in the difficult busi- 
ness of criticizing poetry; or by the number of emotions, 
separately capable of being recorded by the psychologist and 
severally regarded by him as valuable, which it evokes in a 
single hearer. 

On this horn of the dilemma art disappears altogether. 
The alternative possibility is that the stimulating of certain 
reactions should be regarded not as the essence of art but 
as a consequence arising in certain conditions out of the 
nature of that essence. In that case, art survives the analysis, 
but only at the cost of making it irrelevant, as a pharmaco- 
logist’s account of the effect of a hitherto unanalysed drug 
would be irrelevant to the question of its chemical com- 
position. Granted that works of art in certain conditions do 
stimulate certain reactions in their audience, which is a fact; 
and granted that they do so not because of something other 
than their nature as works of art, but because of that nature 

1 Dr. I. A. Richards is at present the most distinguished advocate of the 
theory I am attacking. I should never say of him that he has no aesthetic 
experience. But in his writings he does not discuss it; he only reveals it from 
time to time by things he lets slip. 


itself, which is an error; it will even so not follow that light 

is thrown on that nature itself by the study of these reactions. 

Psychological science has in fact done nothing towards 
explaining the nature of art, however much it has done 
towards explaining the nature of certain elements of human 
experience with which it may from time to time be asso- 
ciated or confused. The contribution of psychology to 
pseudo-aesthetic is enormous ; to aesthetic proper it is nil. 


§ 6. Fine Art and Beauty 

The abandonment of the technical theory of art involves 
the abandonment of a certain terminology, which consists 
in describing art proper by the name of ‘fine art’. This 
terminology implies that there is a genus art, divided into 
two species, the ‘useful arts’ and the ‘fine arts’. The ‘useful 
arts’ are crafts like metallurgy, weaving, pottery, and so 
forth; that is, the phrase means ‘arts (i.e. crafts) devoted to 
making what is useful’. This implies that the genus art is 
conceived as craft, and that the phrase ‘fine arts’ means 
‘crafts devoted to making what is fine, i.e. beautiful’. That 
is to say, the terminology in question is intended to commit 
any one who uses it to the technical theory of art. 

Happily, the term ‘fine art’, except in a few archaic phrases, 
is obsolete; but whether this is due to a general repudiation 
of the ideas it expresses, or only to the convenience of 
abbreviating it into ‘art’, is not so clear. Some of those 
ideas, at any rate, do not seem to have died out; and it would 
be well to look into them here. 

x. The phrase implies that art and manufacture, to use 
current modern equivalents for the old terms ‘fine arts’ and 
'useful arts’, are species of one genus: both essentially activities 
productive of artifacts, but differing in the qualities which 
these artifacts are meant to possess. This is an error which 
must be eradicated from our minds with all possible care. 
In doing this we must disabuse ourselves of the notion that 
the business of an artist consists in producing a special kind 
of artifacts, so-called ‘works of art’ or objets d’art , which 


are bodily and perceptible things (painted canvasses, carved 
stones, and so forth). This notion is nothing more nor less 
than the technical theory of art itself. We shall have, later on, 
to consider in some detail what it is that the artist, as such 
and essentially, produces. We shall find that it is two things. 
Primarily, it is an ‘internal’ or ‘mental’ thing, something (as 
we commonly say) ‘existing in his head’ and there only:' 
something of the kind which we commonly call an experience. 
Secondarily, it is a bodily or perceptible thing (a picture, 
statue, &c.) whose exact relation to this ‘mental’ thing will 
need very careful definition. Of these two things, the first 
is obviously not anything that can be called a work of art, 
if work means something made in the sense in which a 
weaver makes cloth. But since it is the thing which the 
artist as such primarily produces, I shall argue that we are 
entitled to call it ‘the work of art proper’. The second thing, 
the bodily and perceptible thing, I shall show to be only 
incidental to the first. The making of it is therefore not the 
activity in virtue of which a man is an artist, but only a 
subsidiary activity, incidental to that. And consequently 
this thing is a work of art, not in its own right, but only 
because of the relation in which it stands to the ‘mental’ 
thing or experience of which I spoke just now. There is no 
such thing as an objet d' art in itself; if we call any bodily and 
perceptible thing by that name or an equivalent we do so only 
because of the relation in which it stands to the aesthetic 
experience which is the ‘work of art proper’. 

2. The phrase ‘fine art’ further implies that the bodily or 
perceptible work of art has a peculiarity distinguishing it 
from the products of useful art, viz. beauty. This is a 
conception which has become very much distorted in the 
course of many centuries’ speculation on aesthetic theory, 
and we must try to get it straight. The word does not belong 
to the English language as such, but to the common speech 
of European civilization (le beau , il hello , helium \ the last used 
as an equivalent of t6 kccAov). If we go back to the Greek, we 
find that there is no connexion at all between beauty and art. 


Plato has a lot to say about beauty, in which he is only 
systematizing what we find implied in the ordinary Greek 
use of the word. The beauty of anything is, for him, that 
in it which compels us to admire and desire it: to Kaftov is 
the proper object of spcos, ‘love’. The theory of beauty is 
thus, in Plato, connected not with the theory of poetry or any 
other art, but primarily with the theory of sexual love, secondly 
with the theory of morals (as that for the sake of which we act 
when action is at its highest potency; and Aristotle similarly, 
of a noble action, says that it is done ‘for beauty’s sake’, tou 
kccAoO 8V£K0c), and thirdly with the theory of knowledge, as 
that which lures us onward in the path of philosophy, the 
quest of truth. To call a thing beautiful in Greek, whether 
ordinary or philosophical Greek, is simply to call it admirable 
or excellent or desirable. A poem or painting may certainly 
receive the epithet, but only by the same kind of right as a 
boot or any other simple artifact. The sandals of Hermes, 
for example, are regularly called beautiful by Homer, not 
because they are conceived as elegantly designed or decor- 
ated, but because they are conceived as jolly good sandals 
which enable him to fly as well as walk. 

In modern times there has been a determined attempt on 
. the part of aesthetic theorists to monopolize the word and 
make it stand for that quality in things in virtue of which 
; when we contemplate them we enjoy what we recognize as an 
aesthetic experience. There is no such quality; and the 
word, which is a perfectly respectable word in current usage, 
means not what the aesthetic theorists want it to mean but 
something quite different and much more like what t6 kocAov 
means in Greek. I shall deal with these points in the reverse 

(a) The words ‘beauty’, ‘beautiful’, as actually used, have 
no aesthetic implication. We speak of a beautiful painting 
or statue, but this only means an admirable or excellent one. 

I Certainly the total phrase ‘a beautiful statue’ conveys an 
implication of aesthetic excellence, but the aesthetic part of 
this implication is conveyed not by the word ‘beautiful’ but 


by the word ‘statue*. The word ‘beautiful* is used in such a 
case no otherwise than as it is used in such phrases as ‘a 
beautiful demonstration’ in mathematics or ‘a beautiful 
stroke’ at billiards. These phrases do not express an aesthetic 
attitude in the person who uses them towards the stroke or 
the demonstration; they express an attitude of admiration 
for a thing well done, irrespective of whether that thing 
is an aesthetic activity, an intellectual activity, or a bodily 
activity. • 

We speak of things as beautiful, with no less frequency 
and no less accuracy, when their excellence is one that appeals 
only to our senses : a beautiful saddle of mutton or a beautiful 
claret. Or when their excellence is that of well-devised and 
well-made means to an end : a beautiful watch or a beautiful 
theodolite. 'When we speak of natural things as beautiful, 
it may, of course, be with reference to the aesthetic experi- 
ences which we sometimes enjoy in connexion with mem; 
for we do enjoy such experiences in connexion with natural 
objects, as we enjoy them in connexion with objets d'art , and, 
I think, enjoy them in both cases in precisely the same way. 
But it need not be with reference to aesthetic experience; it 
may equally well be with reference to the satisfaction of some 
desire or the arousing of some emotion. A beautiful woman 
ordinarily means one whom we find sexually desirable; a 
beautiful day, one which gives us the kind of weather we 
need for some purpose or other, or just for some reason like; 
a beautiful sunset or a beautiful night, one that fills us with 
certain emotions, and we have seen that such emotional 
reactions have nothing to do with aesthetic merit. The 
question was acutely raised by Kant, how far our attitude 
towards the song of a bird is an aesthetic one, and how far 
it is a feeling of sympathy towards a little fellow creature. 
Certainly we often call our fellow creatures beautiful by 
way of saying that we love them, and that not only sexually. 
The bright eyes of a mouse or the fragile vitality of a flower 
are things that touch us to the heart, but they touch us with 
the love that life feels for life, not with a judgement of their 


aesthetic excellence. A very great deal of what we express by 
calling natural things beautiful has nothing whatever to do 
with aesthetic experience. It has to do with that other kind of 
experience which Plato called Ipcos. 

Modern aestheticians who want to connect the idea of 
beauty with the idea of art will say to all this either that the 
word is ‘correctly’ used when it is used in connexion with 
aesthetic experience and ‘incorrectly’ on other occasions, or 
that it is ‘ambiguous’, having both an aesthetic use and a non- 
aesthetic. Neither position is tenable. The first is one of 
those all too frequent attempts on the part of philosophers 
to justify their own misuse of a word by ordering others to 
misuse it in the same way. We ought not, they say, to call a 
grilled steak beautiful. But why not ? Because they want us 
to let them monopolize the word for their own purposes. 
Well, it does not matter to anybody but themselves, because 
nobody will obey them. But it matters to themselves, because 
the purpose for which they want it, as we shall see in the next 
paragraph, is to talk nonsense. The second alternative is 
simply untrue. There is no ambiguity. The word ‘beauty’, 
wherever and however it is used, connotes that in things by 
virtue of which we love them, admire them, or desire them. 

(b) When these aestheticians want to use the word as a 
name for the quality in things by virtue of which we enjoy 
an aesthetic experience in connexion with them, they want 
to use it as a name for something non-existent. There is no 
such quality. The aesthetic experience is an autonomous 
activity. It arises from within ; it is not a specific reaction 
to a stimulus proceeding from a specific type of external 
object. 'Some of those who want to use the word ‘beauty’ in 
this way are quite aware of this, and indeed preach it as a 
doctrine under the name of the subjectivity of beauty; not 
realizing that if this doctrine is accepted their own motive 
for wresting the word ‘beauty’ from its proper sense disap- 
pears.\ For to say that beauty is subjective means that the 
aesthetic experiences which we enjoy in connexion with 
certain things arise not from any quality that they possess, 


which if they did possess it would be called beauty, but 
from our own aesthetic activity. 

To sum up : aesthetic theory is the theory not of beauty 
but of art. The theory of beauty, if instead of being brought 
(as it rightly was by Plato) into connexion with the theory 
of love it is brought into connexion with aesthetic theory, is 
merely an attempt to construct an aesthetic on a ‘realistic’ 
basis, that is, to explain away the aesthetic activity by appeal 
to a supposed quality of the things with which, in that 
experience, we are in contact; this supposed quality, invented 
to explain the activity, being in fact nothing but the activity 
itself, falsely located not in the agent but in his external 



§ l. Representation and Imitation 

If art proper is not any kind of craft, it cannot be repre- 
sentative. For representation is a matter of skill, a craft of a 
special kind. If the last chapter has established the bank- 
ruptcy of the technical theory of art, the present chapter is in 
logical strictness unnecessary, for its purpose will be to 
demonstrate that art proper is not and cannot be represen- 
tative. But the idea of representation has played too im- 
portant a part in the history of aesthetic to permit this 
summary treatment. I therefore propose to waive the above 
argument, forget the relation between representation and 
craft, and treat the representational theory of art as if it were 
a separate theory. As a matter of fact, most of what was 
written and said about art in the nineteenth century was 
written and said, not about art proper, but about represen- 
tation ; with the assumption, of course, that it was for that 
reason about art. Serious artists and critics are trying in 
these days to go behind that assumption; but they are 
finding it very difficult, because the general public has by 
now learnt to take the same assumption as gospel truth. Let 
that fact, then, serve to justify the publication of this chapter. 

Representation must be distinguished from imitation. A 
work of art is imitative in virtue of its relation to another 
work of art which affords it a model of artistic excellence; 
it is representative in virtue of its relation to something in 
‘nature’, that is, something not a work of art. 

Imitation also is a craft; and therefore a so-called work of 
art, in so far as it is imitative, is a work of art falsely so called. 
At the present time there is little need to insist on this. 
Plenty of people paint and write and compose in a spirit of 
the purest imitation, and make a name for themselves as 
painters or writers or musicians solely owing to their success 


in copying the manner of some one whose reputation is 
assured; but both they and their public know that in so far 
as their work is of this kind it is a sham, and it would be a 
waste’ of our time to prove it. The opposite thesis would be 
better worth developing. Originality in art, meaning lack of 
resemblance to anything that has been done before, is some- 
times nowadays regarded as an artistic merit. This, of course, 
is absurd. If the production of something deliberately 
designed to be like existing works of art is mere craft, equally 
so, and for the same reason, is the production of something 
designed to be unlike them. There is a sense in which any 
genuine work of art is original ; but originality in that sense 
does not mean unlikeness to other works of art. It is a name 
for the fact that this work of art is a work of art and not 
anything else. 

§ 2. Representative Art and Art Proper 

The doctrine that all art is representative is a doctrine 
commonly attributed to Plato and Aristotle 1 ; and something 
like it was actually held by theorists of the Renaissance and 
the seventeenth century. Later, it was generally maintained 
that some kinds of art were representative and others not. 
To-day, the only tolerable view is that no art is representative. 
At any rate, this is the view of most artists and critics whose 
opinion is worth taking; but what exactly is asserted and 
what exactly denied by people who express it, nobody quite 

The view that art proper is not representative, which is 
the view here maintained, does not imply that art and 
representation are incompatible. As in the case of art and 
craft, they overlap. A building or a cup, which is primarily 
an artifact or product of craft, may be also a work of art; but 
what makes it a work of art is different from what makes it 
an artifact. A representation may be a work of art; but what 
makes it a representation is one thing, what makes it a work 
of art is another. 

1 But falsely attributed. See the following Section. 


A portrait, for example, is a work of representation. What 
the patron demands is a good likeness; and that is what the 
painter aims, and successfully, if he is a competent painter, 
at producing. It is not a difficult thing to do; and we may 
reasonably assume that in portraits by great painters such 
as Raphael, Titian, Velazquez, or Rembrandt it has been 
done. But, however reasonable the assumption may be, it 
is an assumption and nothing more. The sitters are dead 
and gone, and we cannot check the likeness for ourselves. 
If, therefore, the only kind of merit a portrait could have 
were its likeness to the sitter, we could not possibly 
distinguish, except where the sitter is still alive and 
unchanged, between a good portrait and a bad. I knew a 
wealthy art-collector who would never collect portraits, 
for this very reason. He maintained that since the business 
of a portrait-painter was to produce a likeness, there 
was no way of distinguishing a good portrait from a 
bad when once the sitter was dead. He was a very good 

None the less, we do distinguish ; and our ability to do so 
is due to the fact that although, in ordering a portrait, the 
patron is ordering not a work of art but a likeness, the 
painter in supplying his demand may have given him more 
than be bargained for: a likeness and a work of art as well. 
Of course, in one sense, every portrait must be a work of art. 
We have already seen how in the advertisement artist there 
is an artistic motive present, but ‘denatured’ and subordinated 
to an end which, being alien to the artist as such, is from the 
artistic point of view a base end. The portrait-painter is in 
the same case. He must first of all be an artist before he can 
subordinate his artistic powers to the end of portraiture. 
Where the subordination is complete, the portrait-painter 
has satisfied his patron’s demand for a good likeness, but 
has sacrificed his life as an artist in doing so. Thus a com- 
mercial portrait, such as most of those one sees on the walls of 
exhibitions, is in one sense a work of art and in one sense not 
a work of art: it is a work in which artistic motives are 


genuinely present, but denatured by subordination to a non- 
artistic end, the end of representation. 

In calling a portrait a work of art we mean something 
more than this. We mean that in addition to the artistry 
which the painter has subordinated to the business of pro- 
ducing a likeness, there is a further artistry which has risen 
superior to that business. First of all, the painter has used 
the fact that he can paint as means to the production of a 
likeness; then he has. used the fact that he is producing a 
likeness as an opportunity for producing a work of art. 
There is no need for the reader to puzzle his head over this 
statement. Either he knows what I am talking about or he 
does not. If he can detect for himself the difference between 
a commercial portrait, intended simply to satisfy a patron’s 
demand for a good likeness, such as those by the well-known 
artists Mr. A and Mr. B, and a portrait in which the artistic 
motive has triumphed over the representational, like those 
by Mr. X and Mr. Y, we can get ahead. If he cannot, he 
lacks the experience on which the writer of a book like this 
is asking him to reflect. 

What is here said of a portrait or representation of an 
individual human being applies equally to representations of 
other individuals, such as Snowdon from Capel Curig, the 
Thames at Pangbourne, or the Death of Nelson. And it 
makes no difference (as we shall see later on) whether the 
individual is historically or topographically ‘real’, like 
Nelson or Snowdon, or ‘imaginary’, like Mr. Tobias Shandy 
or Jacob’s Room. 

It makes no difference, again, whether the representation 
is individualized or generalized. A portrait aims at in- 
dividualized representation; but Aristotle in the case of 
drama and Sir Joshua Reynolds in the case of painting have 
pointed out (quite correctly, in spite of Ruskin’s disapproval) 
that there is such a thing as generalizing representation. The 
patron who buys a picture of a fox-hunt or a covey of par- 
tridges does not buy it because it represents that fox-hunt 
or that covey and not another ; he buys it because it represents 

4436 E 


a thing of that kind. And the painter who caters for that mar- 
ket is quite aware of this, and makes his covey or his fox-hunt a 
‘typical’ one, that is, he represents what Aristotle called ‘the 
universal’. Ruskin thought that generalizing representation 
could never produce good art; but it can; not because it is re- 
presentation, nor because it is generalizing representation, but 
because it can be raised to the level of art proper through being 
handled by a real artist. Even Ruskin could see this where 
Turner was concerned. The prejudice which he expressed 
against generalizing representation was merely a typical 
piece of English nineteenth-century romanticism, attempting 
to dislodge the ‘universal’ out of art in order to dissociate art 
from the intellect, whose influence on art was supposed to 
make it frigid, unemotional, and therefore inartistic. 

§ 3. Plato and Aristotle on Representation 

Most modern writers on aesthetics attribute to Plato the 
syllogism ‘imitation is bad; all art is imitative; therefore all 
art is bad’, where imitation means what I am here calling 
representation. Hence, they go on, Plato ‘banishes art from 
his city’. I will not document my assertion. There is no need 
to pillory a few offenders for a crime that is almost universal. 1 

This Platonic ‘attack on art’ is a myth whose vitality 
throws a lurid light on the scholarship of those who have 
invented and perpetuated it. The facts are (i) that ‘Socrates’ 
in Plato’s Republic divides poetry into two kinds, one repre- 
sentative and the other not (392 d); (ii) that he regards 
certain kinds of representative poetry as amusing (f)2t0s) but 
for various reasons undesirable, and banishes these kinds 
only of representative poetry not merely from the schoolroom 
of his young guardians but from the entire city (398 a); (iii) 
that later in the dialogue he expresses satisfaction with his 
original division (595 a); (iv) reinforces his attack, this time 

1 I am involved in it myself; see an article on ‘Plato’s Philosophy of Art’, 
in Mind, n.s. xxxiv, 1 54-72. It is especially an English error, and goes back 
at least to Jowett’s translation of Plato (1872). Outside England it has in- 
fected Croce; I suspect, through Bosanquet’s History of Aesthetic. 


extended to the entire field of representative poetry, with 
new arguments (595 c-606 d); (v) and banishes all repre- 
sentative poetry, but retains certain specified kinds of poetry 
as not' representative (607 a). 

It is, of course, anachronistic to attribute to Plato the 
modern conception of ‘art’, or any views that involve this 
conception. He is writing not about art but about poetry, 
with painting brought in by the way for purposes of illustra- 
tion. But this is not what I complain of. Substitute ‘poetry’ 
for ‘art’ in the first paragraph above, and the statements will 
still be altogether untrue. 

The myth about Plato’s banishing the artist (or poet) 
from his ideal city is derived from a misunderstanding of 
Republic , 398 a: ‘We should reverence him as something 
holy and marvellous and delightful : we should tell him that 
there is not any one like him in our city — and that there is 
not allowed to be; and we should anoint him with myrrh 
and crown him with a diadem and send him away to another 
city, and for our own part continue to employ for our 
welfare’s sake a drier and less amusing poet and story-teller, 
who. should represent to us the discourse of a good man.’ 
The misinterpreters of Plato assure us that the victim of this 
banishment is the poet as such. If they had read the sentence 
to the end as I have quoted it, they would have seen that he 
could not be that; he must be some one kind of poet; and 
if they had remembered what went before, they would realize 
what kind of poet he was : not even the representative poet 
as such, but the entertainer who (admittedly with marvellous 
skill and very amusingly) represents trivial or disgusting 
things : the kind of person who makes farm-yard noises and 
the like (396 b). At this stage of the argument (Book III) 
not only some kinds of poet, but even some kinds of repre- 
sentative poet, are explicitly retained in the city: namely, 
those who ‘represent the discourse of a good man’. 

In the tenth book Plato’s position has changed. But it 
has not changed in the direction of regarding all poetry as 
representative. The change is that whereas in Book III some 


representative poetry is banished because what it represents 
is trivial or evil, in Book X all representative poetry is 
banished because it is representative. This is clear from the 
first few lines of the book, where Socrates congratulates 
himself on having decided ‘to banish all such poetry as is 
representative’ (to pqlhapQ Trapa2,sx£o0ai auTfjs ocrr| ninTynwfj). 
It never entered Plato’s head that any reader could think this 
implied the banishment of all poetry; for when (607 a) 
Socrates says ‘the only kind of poetry we must admit is 
hymns to the gods and praises of good men’, no character is 
made to protest: ‘But was not all poetry to be excluded?’ 

Tragedy and comedy were kinds of poetry which Plato 
classified as representative. When he wrote Book III, it 
seems that he intended to admit into his republic a certain 
kind of drama, more or less Aeschylean, I suppose, in 
character. When he wrote Book X, his view had hardened. 
All drama must go, and he finds himself left with that 
kind of poetry whose chief representative is Pindar. 

If any one will read the first half of Book X 1 2 with an un- 
prejudiced eye, he will see that Plato never tells his reader 
either that he wishes to attack all forms of poetry, or that 
he regards poetry in general as representative. He will see 
that, about fifty times over, Plato uses the verb umetcr8ai, 
‘represent’, or some cognate word with especial care so as 
never to let the reader forget that he is discussing repre- 
sentative poetry only, and not poetry in general. 3 He 

1 In Greek; for our translations are not to be trusted. For example, 
in a recent translation b) r a high authority, he will find the sentence oO h£vtoi 
Treo t6 ys u^yicrrov KcrrnyopriKausv oCrrfis (605 c: ‘we have not yet stated our 
chief accusation against it’, i.e. against representation; for the whole context 
is about u(im«ns, cf. the phrase t6v iniurnie&v Trovryn'iv 605 b, seven lines 
above), mistranslated ‘we have not yet brought our chief count against poetry’, 
as if oCrrfis referred to some mention, in the context, of Trotiynia'j in general. 

2 In a very few passages, it is true, Plato writes of ‘poets’ or ‘poetry’ without 
the express qualification ‘representative’, although the sense might seem to 

require it (e.g. 600 e 5, 601 a 4, 606 a 6, and especially 607 b 2, 6). In every 
case except one, the qualification is obviously implied in the context. The one 
exception (607 b 6), though a very interesting passage, is not one that affects 
the present discussion. 


will see that the elaborate attack on Homer is directed 
against him not as the king of poets in general but against 
him as the king of tragedians (this is emphasized once at the 
beginning of the attack and again at the end: 598 d, t(\v ts 
Tpaycp2uav Kai t6v fiyepova aCrrfft "Opripov: 607 a, "Opqpov 
TTOiTynKcbTOcrov slvai Kai irpcoxov tcov Tpay coZotto icov) . He will 
see that a distinction is carefully made between the repre- 
sentative poet and the ‘good’ poet (598 e, t6v &yoc9ov -rroiTyn'iv 
. . . sl26Ta apa iroiei>7, by contrast with pipiyifis; the next 
sentence, explaining that what the dyocQos Trouynte does is to 
‘discourse’, makes it clear that the good Troiiyrfis who is 
contrasted with the ‘representer’ here means not a good 
craftsman or artisan but a good poet. In 605 d, agairi, it is 
said that when Homer or a tragedian causes us to bewail the 
misfortune of the hero he represents, we praise him ‘as a 
good poet’ ; but this, Socrates goes on (605 e), is undeserved 
praise). Finally, he will see that at the end of the whole 
argument, when Socrates seems half to relent and promises 
to hear with sympathy whatever can be said in defence of the 
accused, the old distinction is still insisted upon : the accused 
is never poetry, but ‘poetry for pleasure’s sake, i.e. repre- 
sentation’ (f) Trpos f)2kOVflV TTOtT)TlKTJ KCtl T| |Jl(pr|CTlS, 607 c; 
‘poetry of this kind’ Tfft xoiccOrris -rroifioscos, 607 e). 

I am not defending Plato or reading into him my own 
aesthetic doctrines. I think that in fact he was guilty of a 
serious confusion in identifying representative poetry with 
amusement poetry, whereas amusement art is only one kind 
of representative art, the other kind being magical art. 
What Plato wanted to do, as I shall explain in the fifth 
chapter, was to put the clock back and revert from the 
amusement art of the Greek decadence to the magical art 
of the archaic period and the fifth century. But by attacking 
representative poetry he was using the wrong means for 
effecting this result (if, indeed, it co'uld have been effected 
at all). He did not apply the Socratic method with enough 
vigour; had he done so, he would have pulled himself up 
with the question, ‘How can I discuss representative poetry 


(ths iroit'iCTecos ooti pig.r)TiKri) before I have made up my mind 

what poetry is in itself?’ 

This failure to raise the fundamental question no doubt 
partly explains why Plato’s argument has been so widely 
and so completely misunderstood. But it does not explain 
the misunderstanding entirely, still less excuse it. The 
reason why modern readers have taken Plato’s attack on 
representative amusement poetry (f) -rrpos f|2ovfiv TTOiiynKTi 
Kcd f) ufuqcns) for an attack on poetry as.such is that their own 
minds are fogged by a theory — the current vulgar theory — 
identifying art as such with representation. Bringing this 
theory with them to Plato’s text, they read it into that text 
in spite of all that Plato can do to prevent them. 

As long as this current vulgar theory dominates the minds 
of classical scholars, it is no use expecting them to under- 
stand what it really is that Plato is saying. But that is no 
reason why a protest should not be made against what has 
become a crying scandal in the world of classical scholarship. 

The reader will perhaps wish to ask, What of Aristotle? 
Did not he think of art as essentially representative ? 

He makes it clear at the beginning of the Poetics that he 
did not. He there accepts Plato’s familiar distinction be- 
tween representative and non-representative art; maintaining, 
for example, that some kinds of music are representative but 
not all. It is true that he does not altogether follow Plato as to 
where the line between them should be drawn. In the case of 
poetry he regards one kind (dithyramb) as representative 
which Plato had classified as non-representative, and one 
(epic) as wholly representative which Plato had classified as 
representative only in part. But he agrees with Plato that 
.drama is representative; that the function of representative 
art is to arouse emotion; and that therefore drama is essem 
itially a means of arousing emotion. In the case of tragedy, 
this emotion is a combination of pity and fear. He further 
agreed with Plato in thinking that the emotions aroused in 
the mind of a spectator by a dramatic performance are 
emotions of a kind which (at any rate in the violent degree to 


which they are aroused in the theatre) impede the due per- 
formance of everyday activities. He nevertheless deliber- 
ately took upon himself the task which Socrates had left, in 
Re-public 607 d, to ‘her champions, men who are not poets but 
lovers of poetry — the task of speaking on her behalf in prose 
and arguing that she is not only pleasant but wholesome for 
a city and for the life of man’. ‘She’ here, as the context 
shows, is not poetry but ‘poetry for pleasure’s sake, that is, 
representation’ (607 c). Aristotle is claiming the place of 
such a champion, and the Poetics (or rather, that small part of 
it which is something more than a set of hints to amateur 
playwrights) is offered as the prose speech Socrates asked for. 

The Poetics is therefore in no sense a Defence of Poetry; 
it is a Defence of Poetry for Pleasure’s Sake, or Representa- 
tive Poetry. The method is a simple and familiar one. The 
defence admits all the facts alleged by the prosecution, but 
turns them to the accused’s credit. This is effected by 
carrying the psychological analysis of the effect of amuse- 
ment art on its audience one stage further, beyond the point 
where Plato had left it. Tragedy generates in the audience 
emotions of pity and fear. A mind heavily charged with 
these emotions is thereby unfitted for practical life. So far 
Aristotle and Plato are in agreement. Plato proceeds at once 
to his conclusion: therefore tragedy is detrimental to the 
practical life of its audience. (The reader will remember 
that the argument was never intended to concern itself with 
tragedy in its religious or magical form, to which it would be 
wholly irrelevant, still less with tragedy as a form of art 
proper: but only with tragedy as a form of amusement.) 
Aristotle inserts one further step in the analysis. The 
emotions generated by tragedy, he observes, are not in fact 
allowed to remain burdening the mind of the audience. 
They are discharged in the experience of watching the 
tragedy. This emotional defecation or ‘purging’ (KocSapais) 
leaves the audience’s mind, after the tragedy is over, not 
loaded with pity and fear but lightened of them. The effect 
is thus the opposite of what Plato had supposed. 


Aristotle’s analysis is perfectly correct and highly 
important, though (of course) not as a contribution to the 
theory of art, but as a contribution to the theory of amuse- 
ment. But whether he has answered Plato’s real objections 
to amusement art is another question altogether. Plato’s dis- 
.cussion of amusement art is only an incident in the Republic 
as a whole. The Republic deals with a vast variety of subjects ; 
but it is not an encyclopaedia or a summa ; it is concentrated 
upon a single problem, and the various subjects it deals with 
are brought in and discussed only so far as they illuminate 
that problem. The problem is the decadence of the Greek 
world: its symptoms, its causes, and its possible remedies. 
Among its symptoms, as Plato rightly contended, was the 
supersession of the old magico-religious art by a new amuse- 
ment art. Plato’s discussion of poetry is rooted in a lively 
sense of realities: he knows the difference between the old 
art and the new — the kind of difference that there is between 
the Olympia pediments and Praxiteles — and he is trying to 
analyse it. His analysis is imperfect. He thinks that the new 
art of the decadence is the art of an over-excited, over- 
emotionalized world; but it is really the exact opposite. 
It is really the ‘art’ of an emotionally defecated world, a 
world whose inhabitants feel it flat and stale. The art, in fact, 
of a Waste Land. Aristotle, with another generation’s ex- 
perience of the fourth century to instruct him, corrects 
Plato on the facts. But he has lost Plato’s sense of their signifi- 
cance. He no longer feels the contrast between the greatness 
of the fifth century and the decadence of the fourth. Plato, 
on the threshold of Greece’s decay, looks forward propheti- 
cally into the gloom and throws all the energies of his heroic 
mind into the task of averting it. Aristotle, a native of the 
new Hellenistic world, sees no gloom. But it is there. / / 

§ 4. Literal and Emotional Representation 

Let us look back at the case of a portrait, from which we 
started. What is the patron demanding, and what is the 
painter supplying, under the name of. a ‘good likeness’ ? It 


is generally supposed that to speak of a painting as like the 
original means that the painting, as a pattern of colours, 
resembles the pattern of colours that appears to a person 
lookin'g at the original. But this is not at all what is meant. 

The true definition of representative art is not that 
the artifact resembles an original (in which case I call the 
representation literal), but that the feeling, evoked by the 
artifact resembles the feeling evoked by the original (I call; 
this emotional representation). When a portrait is said to be 
like the sitter, what is meant is that the spectator, when he 
looks at the portrait, ‘feels as if he were in the sitter’s 
presence. This is what the representative artist as such is 
aiming at. He knows how he wants to make his audience 
feel, and he constructs his artifact in such a way that it will 
make them feel like that. Up to a point, this is done by repre- 
senting the object literally, but beyond that point it is done 
by skilful departure from literal representation. The skill in 
question, like any other form of skill, is a matter of devising 
means to a given end, and is acquired empirically, by observ- 
ing how certain artifacts affect certain audiences, and thus 
through experience (which may in part be other people’s ex- 
perience communicated by instruction) becoming able to pro- 
duce in one’s audience the kind of effect one wants to produce. 

It is, therefore, not a mark of incompetence in the repre- 
sentative artist that his works are not literally exact copies of 
their originals. Had that been so, the camera would have 
beaten the portrait-painter on his own ground; whereas the 
reverse is the case; photographic portraits are always more 
or less ‘faked’ on principles borrowed from the portrait- 
painter. For the portrait-painter does not want to produce 
a literal likeness . 1 He deliberately leaves out some things 
that he sees, modifies others, and introduces some which he 

1 This point has been well put by Van Gogh. ‘Dis a Serret queje serais 
disespiri si mes figures itaient bonnes, dis-lui que je ne les veux pas academi- 
quement correctes, dis-lui que je veux dire que si on photographiait un homme 
qui beche, il ne bicherait certainement pas. Dis-lui que je trouve les figures de 
Michel-Ange admirables, quoique les jambes soienr decidement trop longues, 
les hanches et les cuisses trop larges ... les vrais peintres . . . ne peignent pas 


does not see in his sitter at all. And all this is done systema- 
tically and skilfully, so as to produce something that the 
patron will think ‘like’ the original. People and things look 
different to us according to the emotion we feel in lboking 
at them. A wild animal of which we are afraid looks larger 
than it would if we were not afraid of it; its teeth and claws 
are especially magnified. A mountain on which we imagine 
ourselves climbing looks exaggeratedly steep and rugged. 
A person of whom we stand in awe seems to have large and 
piercing eyes. Photographs or literally accurate drawings 
of these things will be emotionally unlike them; and a tactful 
painter will put in the appropriate exaggerations and so 
produce an emotionally correct likeness; correct, that is, for 
the particular audience he has in mind. 

Representation in art is thus not the same thing as 
naturalism. Naturalism is not even identical with literal 
representation as such, but only with the literal representa- 
tion of that common-sense world of things as they appear to 
a normal and healthy eye which we call nature. Breughel’s 
pictures of animal-demons, Strindberg’s Spook Sonata , Poe’s 
thrillers, Beardsley’s fantastic drawings, surrealist paintings, 
are strictly and literally representational ; but the world they 
represent is not the common-sense world, it is the world of 
delirium, an abnormal or even insane world permanently 
inhabited, no doubt, only by the insane, but visited on occa- 
sion by all of us. 

Roughly speaking, we may distinguish three degrees of 
representation. First, a naive or almost non-selective repre- 
sentation, which attempts (or seems to attempt) the im- 
possible task of complete literalness. We find examples in 
palaeolithic animal-painting or Egyptian portrait-sculpture; 
though it is well to remember that these things are a great 
deal more sophisticated than we are apt to suppose. Secondly, 
it is found that the same emotional effect can be produced, 
perhaps even more successfully, by bold selection of im- 

les choses telles qu’elles sont, . . . mais comma eux . . . les sentent.’ Lettres, 
ed. Philippart (1937), p. 128. 


portant or characteristic features and suppression of all else. 
What is meant by calling these features important or charac- 
teristic is simply that they are found capable by themselves 
of evoking the emotional response. For example: suppose 
an artist wanted to reproduce the emotional effect of a ritual 
dance in which the dancers trace a pattern on the ground. 
The modern traveller would photograph the dancers as they 
stand at a given moment. A conventional modern artist, 
with a mind debauched by naturalism, would draw them in 
the same kind of way. This would be a silly thing to do, 
because the emotional effect of the dance depends not on any 
instantaneous posture but on the traced pattern. The 
sensible thing would be to leave out the dancers altogether, 
and draw the pattern by itself. 

This is certainly the explanation of much ‘primitive’ art 
which at first sight appears altogether non-representative: 
spirals, mazes, plaits and so forth. I think that, for example, 
it may possibly be the explanation of the strange curvilinear 
designs which are so characteristic of pre-Christian Celtic 
art in the La Tene period. These patterns produce a powerful 
and very peculiar emotional effect, which I can best describe 
as a mixture of voluptuousness and terror. This effect is 
certainly not accidental. The Celtic artists knew what they 
were doing; and I imagine that they produced this emotional 
reaction for religious or magical reasons. I conjecture that 
the state of mind may originally have been evoked by the 
dance-patterns of their religious ceremonies, and that the 
patterns we possess may be representations of these. 

An artifact representing its original in this second degree 
is sometimes, by psycho-analysts and others, called a 
‘symbol’ of the original. The word is a misleading one. It 
suggests a difference in kind between a symbol and a copy 
or transcript, whereas the difference between the two things 
is one of degree; and it suggests that the choice of a symbol 
is effected by some kind of agreement or compact in which 
certain persons agree to use the thing so called for certain 
purposes ; for that is what the word ‘symbol’ means. Nothing 


of that sort takes place here. What does take place is a 
selective literal representation, empirically found to be an 
effective means of emotional representation. 

People sometimes talk as if ‘selection’ were an essential 
part of every artist’s work. This is a mistake. In art proper 
there is no such thing; the artist draws what he sees, expresses 
what he feels, makes a clean breast of his experience, con- 
cealing nothing and altering nothing. What these people 
are discussing, when they talk aboyt selection, is not the 
theory of art proper but the theory of representative art of 
the second degree, which they mistake for art proper. 

The third degree abandons literal representation alto- 
gether; but the work is still representative, because it aims, 
this time with a single eye, at emotional representation. 
Thus music, in order to be representative, need not copy 
the noises made by bleating sheep, an express locomotive at 
speed, or a rattle in the throat of a dying man. The pianoforte 
accompaniment of Brahms’s song Feldeinsamkeit does not 
make noises in the least degree resembling those heard by a 
man lying in deep grass on a summer’s day and watching the 
clouds drift across the sky; but it does make noises which 
evoke a feeling remarkably like that which a man feels on 
such an occasion. The erotic music of a modern dance-band 
may or may not consist of noises like those made by persons 
in a state of sexual excitement, but it does most powerfully 
evoke feelings like those proper to such a state. If any 
reader is offended at my suggesting an identity in principle 
between Brahms and jazz, I am sorry the suggestion offends 
him, but I make it deliberately. 



§ x . What magic is not: (i) -pseudo-science 

Representation, we have seen, is always means to an end. 
The end is the re-evocation of certain emotions. According 
as these are evoked for.their practical value or for their own 
sake, it is called magic or amusement. 

My use of the term ‘magic’ in this connexion is certain to 
cause difficulty; but I cannot avoid it, for reasons which I 
hope will become clear. I must therefore see to it that the 
difficulty does not amount to misunderstanding, at any rate 
in the case of readers who wish to understand. 

The word ‘magic’ as a rule carries no definite significance 
at all. It is used to denote certain practices current in 
‘savage’ societies, and recognizable here and there in the 
less ‘civilized’ and less ‘educated’ strata of our own society, 
but it is used without any definite conception of what it 
connotes; and therefore, if some one asserts that, for example, 
the ceremonies of our own church are magical, neither he 
nor any one else can say what the assertion means, except 
that it is evidently intended to be abusive; it cannot be 
described as true or false. What I am here trying to do is 
to rescue the word ‘magic’ from this condition in which it is 
a meaningless term of abuse, and use it as a term with a 
definite meaning. 

Its degradation into a term of abuse was the work of a 
school of anthropologists whose prestige has been deservedly 
great. Two generations ago, anthropologists set them- 
selves the task of scientifically studying the civilizations 
different from our own which had been lumped together 
under the unintelligently depreciatory (or, at times, unin- 
telligently laudatory) name of savage. Prominent among the 
customs of these civilizations they found practices of the kind 
which by common consent were called magical. As scientific 


students, it was their business to discover the motive of 

these practices. What, they asked themselves, is magic for? 

The direction in which they looked for an answer to this 
question was determined by the prevailing influence of a 
positivistic philosophy which ignored man’s emotional nature 
and reduced everything in human experience to terms of 
intellect, and further ignored every kind of intellectual 
activity except those which, according to the same philo- 
sophy, went to the making of natwal science. This pre- 
judice led them to compare the magical practices of the 
‘savage’ (civilized men, they rashly assumed, had none, 
except for certain anomalous things which these anthropo- 
logists called survivals) with the practices of civilized man 
when he uses his scientific knowledge in order to control 
nature. The magician and the scientist, they concluded, 
belong to the same genus. Each is a person who attempts 
to control nature by the practical application of scientific 
knowledge. The difference is that the scientist actually 
possesses scientific knowledge, and consequently his attempts 
to control nature are successful : the magician possesses none, 
and therefore his attempts fail. For example, irrigating 
crops really makes them grow; but the savage, not knowing 
this, dances at them in the false belief that his example will 
encourage in the crops a spirit of emulation, and induce 
them to grow as high as he jumps. Thus, they concluded, 
magic is at bottom simply a special kind of error: it is errone- 
ous natural science. And magical practices are pseudo- 
scientific practices based on this error. 1 / 

This theory of magic as pseudo-science is an extraordinarily 
confused piece of thinking. It would not be worth our while 
here to disentangle with anything like completeness the 
tissue of blunders and prejudices on which it rests; I shall 
content myself with two criticisms. 

/ 1 This theory was propounded by Sir Edward Tylor in 1871 ( Primitive 
I Culture , ch. iv). The fact that it is still taught in our own time by Sir James 
'‘Frazer {The Golden Bough, passim.) has been a disaster to contemporary 
Anthropology and all the studies connected with it. 



1. It was excusable in Locke to classify savages with 
idiots as a kind of persons incapable of logical thinking, for 
Locke and his contemporaries knew practically nothing 
about them. But it was very far from excusable in nineteenth- 
century anthropologists, who knew that the peoples they 
called savage, even apart from the intellectual power ex- 
hibited by their habit of devising extremely complex 
political, legal, and linguistic systems, understood enough of 
the connexions between causes and effects in nature to 
perform delicate operations in metallurgy, agriculture, stock- 
breeding, and so forth. A man who can grasp the relation 
of causes and effects sufficiently to make a hoe out of 
crude iron ore is not the scientific imbecile that Tylor’s 
theory, and the grotesque elaborations it has received at 
the hands of French psychologists, would lead us to believe. 

2. Even if he were, the theory does not fit the facts it was 
devised to explain. Here is one of them. A ‘savage’, in order 
to prevent his nail-clippings from falling into the hands of an 
enemy, destroys them with meticulous care. When the 
anthropologist asks him why, he explains that his purpose is 
to prevent the enemy from using them as a magical weapon 
against himself; for if they were maliciously destroyed with 
the proper ceremonies, the destruction would spread to the 
body from which they had been cut. The anthropologist, 
anxious to see why his informant entertains a belief so 
obviously groundless (for a simple experiment, he is con- 
vinced, would have shown its falsity), thinks out a hypothesis 
to explain it; and the hypothesis at which he arrives is that the 
‘savage’ believes in a ‘sympathetic’ connexion between the nail- 
clippings and the body from which they have been severed, 
such that their destruction automatically injures that body. 

This second belief is equally groundless, and therefore 
itself stands in need of explanation. The English anthropo- 
logists, good honest me% did not observe this; but their 
more logical French colleagues did, and proceeded to 
elaborate an entire theory of ‘primitive mentality’, showing 
that the ‘savage’ has a quite peculiar type of mind, not at all 


like ours; it does not argue logically like a Frenchman’s, it 
does not acquire knowledge through experience like an 
Englishman’s, it thinks (if you can call it thinking) by the 
methodical development of what, from our point of view, 
is a kind of lunacy. 

This extraordinary fabric of theory, whose influence on 
anthropological science has been hardly more malign than its 
influence on the practical relations between Europeans and 
the peoples whom they please to call savage, is based on a 
simple blunder. The fact which it would serve to explain if 
it were true is not the observed fact. The observed fact is 
that the ‘savage’ destroys his own nail-clippings. The theory 
is that he believes in a ‘mystical’ connexion (to use the 
French adjective) between these nail-clippings and his own 
body, such that their destruction is injurious to himself. 
But, if he believed this, he would regard his own destruction 
of his nail-clippings as suicide. He does not so regard it ; there- 
fore he does not believe in the alleged ‘mystical’ connexion, 
and the grounds on which he has been credited with a 
‘primitive mentality’ disappear. 

Simple though it is, the blunder is not innocent. It masks 
a half-conscious conspiracy to bring into ridicule and con- 
tempt civilizations different from our own ; and, in particular, 
civilizations in which magic is openly recognized. Anthropo- 
logists would of course indignantly deny this; but under 
cross-examination their denials would break down. The fact 
from which we started was that a ‘savage’ destroys his nail- 
clippings to prevent an enemy from destroying them with 
certain magical ceremonies. The anthropologist next says 
to himself: ‘My informant tells me he is afraid of some one’s 
doing two things simultaneously: destroying these nail- 
clippings, and performing certain ceremonies. Now, he 
must know as well as I do that the ceremonies are mere 
hocus-pocus. There is nothing to be afraid of there. Con- 
sequently he must be afraid of the destruction of the nail- 
clippings.’ Some such work as this must have been going 
on in the anthropologist’s mind; for if it had not, he would 


not have based his theory on a pseudo-fact (fear of the 
destruction of nail-clippings as such) instead of basing it 
on the genuine fact which he had correctly observed (fear 
of that, destruction when, and only when, accompanied by 
magical ceremonies). The motive power behind this sub- 
stitution is the anthropologist’s conviction that the ceremonies 
which would accompany the destruction of the nail-clippings 
are ‘mere hocus-pocus’ and could not possibly hurt any one. 
But these ceremonies are the one and only magical part of 
the whole business. The alleged theory of magic has been 
constructed by manipulating the facts so that all magical 
elements are left out of them. In other words, the theory is 
a thinly disguised refusal to study magic at all. 

Anthropologists of the present day have very little use for 
the Tylor-Frazer theory, or for Levy-Bruhl’s psychological 
embroidery of it. They are far more intimately acquainted 
with the facts of ‘savage’ life than the men who invented and 
elaborated that theory; far more intimately, indeed, than the 
best-informed of the field-workers on whom these theorists 
depended for their data. In consequence they know too 
much about magical practices to believe that they can be 
explained on positivistic principles as symptoms of disorder 
in the machine of inductive thinking. But this movement 
of expert opinion away from the Tylor-Frazer theory has 
been almost 1 silent; and one result of it has been, strangely, 
to confirm that theory in the mind of the general public. 
For the increasing vigour of recent anthropological work 
has created a demand outside expert circles for anthro- 
pological literature; and this has been satisfied by finding 
in The Golden Bough an inexhaustible scrap-heap of good 
reading. The public, mistaking it for a monument of massive 
thought, is beginning to adopt the pseudo-science theory 
of magic, just when anthropologists are beginning to 
forget it. 

1 Not altogether. Cf. e.g. Malinowski’s Durham lectures (1936) on The Foun- 
dations of Faith and Morals, p. 5: ‘The conception, for instance, of primitive 
magic as a “false scientific technique” does not do justice to its cultural value.* 

4430 F 



§ 2 . What Magic is not: (ii) Neurosis 

Not so much an alternative to the Tylor-Frazer theory of 
magic, but rather a specialized development of it, has been 
put forward by Freud, in the third chapter of Totem and 
Taboo (Eng. tr. by Brill, 1919). Levy-Bruhl had already 
tackled the problem of explaining why the ‘savage’s’ mind 
should work in so extraordinary a way, and from our point 
of view so irrational a way, as is implied by the Tylor-Frazer 
theory. He explained it by saying that savages have a 
peculiar kind of mind which does work that way ( La 
Mentalite primitive, ed. 1, 1913; this original edition bore 
the title Les Fonctions mentales dans les societes inferieures). 
The argument of this book is a very curious piece of 
‘metaphysics’ in the Comtian sense : that is, the attempt to 
explain facts by inventing occult entities. The nature of a 
person’s ‘mentality’ is in itself completely unknowable: it is 
only knowable in its manifestations, the ways in which he 
thinks and acts. It is no use, therefore, trying to explain his 
thinking and acting in an odd way by the hypothesis that he 
has an odd kind of ‘mentality’ ; for this hypothesis is unveri- 
fiable. Ldvy-Bruhl has in fact given us a perfect up-to-date 
example of the method by which, according to Moli&re, 
medical students in seventeenth-century Montpellier were 
taught to reason. 

[Candidate] Mihi domandatur a docto doctore 
Causam et rationem quare 
Opium facit dormire. 

A quoi respondeo: 

Quia est in eo 
Vertus dormitiva, 

Cuius est natura 
Sensus assoupire. 

[Chorus of examiners] Bene bene bene bene respondere. 

Dignus dignus est entrare 
In nostro docto corpSre. 

Freud, on the contrary, is nothing if not scientific. He 
realizes that the scientist’s business is to connect facts not 


with occult entities, but with other facts. Asking himself 
the same question as L£vy-Bruhl, ‘Why should savages think 
in so odd a way ?’, he answers it by bringing the supposed 
facts of magic into relation with those of compulsion- 
neurosis as studied by himself in his own patients. A child, 
he points out, satisfies its wishes by means of sensory halluci- 
nations ; that is, it creates satisfying sensations by the centri- 
fugal excitement of its sensory organs. The savage does 
something not identical with this, but similar to it. He 
satisfies his wishes by performing an act representing the 
state of things for which he wishes; in other words, by 
creating motor hallucinations (op. cit., p. 140). To illustrate, 
Freud quotes a patient of his own, a compulsion-neurotic, 
who believed that if he thought of a man, the man was 
thereby transported to the place; if he cursed a man, the 
man died; and so on. This, he observes, amounts to believing 
in the omnipotence of one’s thought: to believing that what- 
ever one thinks takes place simply because one thinks it. 
This curious psychological condition, Freud suggests, is the 
condition which underlies magical practices. 

This will not do at all. It might serve to explain magic if 
magic were something totally different from what it is; but 
it has no bearing on the actual facts. For magic consists 
essentially in a system of practices, a technique. No magician 
believes that he can get what he wants by merely wanting it, 
or that things come about because he thinks of them as 
happening. On the contrary: it is because he knows that 
there is no immediate connexion of this kind between wish 
and fulfilment (and is therefore unlike Freud’s patient pre- 
cisely in the point wherein Freud compares them) that he 
invents or adopts this technique as a middle term to connect 
the two things. 

Later, Freud seems to be dimly aware of this, and to 
realize that a theory of magic which leaves out all reference 
to magical practices is not very satisfactory. So he brings 
them in by saying that compulsion-neurotics, because they 
are alarmed by their own omnipotence, protect themselves 


against it by devising formulae and rituals whose function 
is to prevent their thoughts and wishes from coming true 
(p. I46). These, he says, are the ‘counterpart’ of the magi- 
cian’s ritual actions. But the two cases no more resemble 
one another than a lightning-conductor resembles a dynamo. 
The compulsion-neurotic, being rather cracked, thinks that 
his wishes immediately fulfil themselves. Having method in 
his madness, he proceeds to invent means of breaking this 
immediate connexion, and earthing tl*e power of his thought 
harmlessly. The ‘savage’, being a sensible man, knows that 
wishes do not immediately fulfil themselves. He therefore 
invents means by which to fulfil them. 

The problem for any theory of magic is: What kind of 
wishes must these be, for actions of the kind we call magical 
to serve as means towards their fulfilment? Freud has not 
even touched that problem. He has simply burked it by 
failing to keep his mind on the peculiarities actually to be 
found in magical activity, and by instituting a comparison 
between the psychology of magic and the wholly different 
psychology of compulsion-ritual. The question which arises 
(I shall not pursue it here) is : What force is at work in the 
scientific consciousness of modern Europeans which makes it 
so hard for them to think straight about magic ? Why should 
hard-headed Englishmen and Scotsmen like Tylor and 
Frazer, when they come to tackle it, blind themselves to the 
very facts they are trying to explain ? Why should an acute 
and philosophical Frenchman like Ldvy-Bruhl, when he starts 
theorizing about it, talk like one of Moli&re's prize idiots? 
Why should Freud, the greatest psychologist of our age, 
react to it by losing all his power of distinguishing one kind 
of psychological function from its opposite? Are we so 
civilized that savagery is too remote from us to be com- 
prehensible ? Or are we so terrified of magic that we simply 
dare not think straight about it ? 

The second alternative is at least a possibility. 'And I 
mention it because it is a possibility against which we must 
be on our guard. If we, as ‘civilized’ people, are really 


terrified of magic, this terror will be a thing we shall not 
care to avow. It will show itself partly (this is the only part 
that immediately concerns myself and the reader) in the 
shape of a very strong disinclination to think about the sub- 
ject in a cool and logical manner. It will therefore put every 
possible obstacle in the way of our accepting a true theory 
of magic, if one is offered us. With this warning, I will try 
to state such a theory. 

§ 3. What Magic Is 

The only profitable way of theorizing about magic is to 
approach it from the side of art. The similarities between 
magic and applied science, on which the Tylor— Frazer 
theory rests, are very slight, and the dissimilarities are great. 
The magician as such is not a scientist; and if we admit this, 
and call him a bad scientist, we are merely finding a term of 
abuse for the characteristics that differentiate him from a 
scientist, without troubling to analyse those characteristics. 
The similarities between magic and neurosis, on which the 
Freudian theory rests, are just as strong or as weak as one 
pleases; for neurosis is a negative term, covering many 
different kinds of departure from our rough-and-ready 
standard of mental health; and there is no reason why one 
item in the list of qualifications demanded by a standard of 
mental health should not be a disbelief in magic. But the 
similarities between magic and art are both strong and 
intimate. Magical practices invariably contain, not as peri- 
pheral elements but as central elements, artistic activities 
like dances, songs, drawing, or modelling. Moreover, these 
elements have a function which in two ways resembles the 
function of amusement, (i) They are means to a precon- 
ceived end, and are therefore not art proper but craft, 
(ii) This end is the arousing of emotion. 

(i) That magic is essentially means to a preconceived end is, 
I think, obvious ; and equally obvious that what is thus used as 
means is always something artistic, or rather (since, being used 
as means to an end, it cannot be art proper) quasi-artistic. 


(ii) That the end of magic is always and solely the 
arousing of certain emotions is less obvious; but every one 
will admit that this is at least sometimes and partially its end. 
The use of the bull-roarer in Australian initiation-ceremonies 
is intended, partly at least, to arouse certain emotions in the 
candidates for initiation and certain others in uninitiated 
persons who may happen to overhear it. A tribe which 
dances a war-dance before going to fight its neighbours is 
working up its warlike emotions. The warriors are dancing 
themselves into a conviction of their own invincibility. The 
various and complicated magic which surrounds and accom- 
panies the agriculture of a peasant society expresses that 
society’s emotions towards its flocks and herds, its crops, 
and the instruments of its labour; or rather, evokes in its 
members at each critical point in the calendar that emotion, 
from among all these, which is appropriate to the corre- 
sponding phase of its annual work. 

But although magic arouses emotion, it does this in quite 
another way than amusement. Emotions aroused by magical 
acts are not discharged by those acts. It is important for 
the practical life of the people concerned that this should 
not happen; and magical practices are magical precisely 
because they have been so designed that it shall not happen. 
The contrary is what happens : these emotions are focused 
and crystallized, consolidated into effective agents in practical 
life. The process is the exact opposite of a catharsis. There, 
the emotion is discharged so that it shall not interfere with 
practical life; here it is canalized and directed upon practical 

I am suggesting that these emotional effects, partly on 
the performers themselves, partly on others favourably or 
unfavourably affected by the performance, are the only 
effects which magic can produce, and the only ones which, 
when intelligently performed, it is meant to produce. The 
primary function of all magical acts, I am suggesting, is to 
generate in the agent or agents certain emotions that are 
considered necessary or useful for the work of living; their 


secondary function is to generate in others, friends or 
enemies of the agent, emotions useful or detrimental to the 
lives of these others. 

To any one with sufficient psychological knowledge to 
understand the effect which our emotions have on the 
success or failure of our enterprises, and in the production 
or cure of diseases, it will be clear that this theory of magic 
amply accounts for its ordinary everyday employment in 
connexion with the ordinary everyday activities of the people 
who believe in it. Such a person thinks, for example, that 
a war undertaken without the proper dances would end in 
defeat; or that if he took his axe to the forest without doing 
the proper magic first, he would not succeed in cutting down 
a tree. But this belief does not imply that the enemy is 
defeated or the tree felled by the power of the magic as 
distinct from the labour of the ‘savage’. It means that, in 
warfare or woodcraft, nothing can be done without morale; 
and the function of magic is to develop and conserve morale; 
or to damage it. For example, if an enemy spied upon our 
war-dance and saw how magnificently we did it, might he 
not slink away and beg his friends to submit without a 
battle ? Where the purpose of magic is to screw our courage 
up to the point of attacking, not a rock or a tree, but a human 
enemy, the enemy’s will to encounter us may be fatally 
weakened by the magic alone. How far this negative 
emotional effect might produce diseases of various kinds or 
even death is a question about which no student of medical 
psychology will wish to dogmatize. 

One step beyond this type of case brings us to cases in 
which ‘savages’ believe, or seem to believe, that magic can 
do things which we ‘civilized’ men believe to be impossible, 
like making rain or stopping earthquakes. I am quite pre- 
pared to think that they do entertain such beliefs; savages 
are no more exempt from human folly than civilized men, and 
are no doubt equally liable to the error of thinking that they, 
or the persons they regard as their superiors, can do what in 
fact cannot be done. But this error is not the essence of magic ; 


it is a perversion of magic. And we should be careful how we 
attribute it to the people we call savages, who will one day 
rise up and testify against us. A peasant whose crops fail be- 
cause he has mismanaged them through idleness generally 
blames the weather. If magical practices cured his idleness, 
there would be nothing to blame the weather for. It is a 
serious question whether the real function of rain-making 
magic, so called, may not be to cheer up the cultivator and 
induce him to work harder, rain ox no rain. Similarly, 
magic which is described as intended to stop earthquakes 
or floods or the like should be carefully examined in order 
to decide whether its true purpose is to avert these natural 
calamities, or to produce in men an emotional state of 
willingness to bear them with fortitude and hope. If the 
second answer proves right, these things too fall into line 
with the theory of magic I am here maintaining; if the first, 
they will have to be called not magic but perversions of 

If we ask how magic produces these emotional effects, the 
answer is easy. It is done by representation. A situation is 
created (the warriors brandish their spears, the peasant gets 
out his plough, and so forth, when no battle is being fought 
and no seed is being sown) representing the practical situa- 
tion upon which emotion is to be directed. It is essential 
to the magical efficacy of the act that the agent shall be 
conscious of this relation, and shall recognize what he is 
doing as a war-dance, a plough-ritual, or the like. This is 
why, on first approaching the ritual, he must have it ex- 
plained to him, either by word of mouth (which may take 
the form of initiatory instruction, or of an explanatory speech 
or song forming part of the ritual itself) or by such close 
mimicry that mistake is impossible. 

Magic is a representation where the emotion evoked is an 
emotion valued on account of its function in practical life, 
evoked in order that it may discharge that function, and 
fed by the generative or focusing magical activity into the 
practical life that needs it. Magical activity is a kind of 


dynamo supplying the mechanism of practical life with the 
emotional current that drives it. Hence magic is a necessity 
for every sort and condition of man, and is actually found in 
every healthy society. A society which thinks, as our own 
thinks, that it has outlived the need of magic, is either mis- 
taken in that opinion, or else it is a dying society, perishing 
for lack of interest in its own maintenance. 

^4. Magical Art 

A magical art is an art which is representative and there- 
fore evocative of emotion, and evokes of set purpose some 
emotions rather than others in order to discharge them into 
the affairs of practical life. Such an art may be good or bad 
when judged by aesthetic standards, but that kind of good- 
ness or badness has little, if any, connexion with its efficacy 
in its own proper work. The brilliant naturalism of the 
admittedly magical palaeolithic animal paintings cannot be 
explained by their magical function. Any kind of scrawl or 
smudge would have served the purpose, if the neophyte on 
approaching it had been solemnly told that it ‘was’ a bison. 
When magical art reaches a high aesthetic level, this is 
because the society to which it belongs (not the artists alone, 
but artists and audience alike) demands of it an aesthetic 
excellence quite other than the very modest degree of 
competence which would enable it to fulfil its magical 
function. Such an art has a double motive. It remains at a 
high level only so long as the two motives are felt as absolutely 
coincident. As soon as a sculptor thinks to himself ‘surely 
it is a waste of labour to finish this portrait with such care, 
when it is going to be shut up in a tomb as soon as it leaves 
my hand’, the two motives have come apart in his mind. 
He has conceived the idea that something short of his best 
work, in the aesthetic sense of that phrase, would satisfy the 
needs of magic; and decadence at once begins. Indeed, it 
has begun already; for ideas of that kind only come up into 
consciousness long after they have begun to influence 


The change of spirit which divides Renaissance and 
modern art from that of the Middle Ages consists in the 
fact that medieval art was frankly and definitely magical, 
while Renaissance and modern art was not. I say ‘was’ not, 
because the climax of this non-magical or anti-magical 
period in the history of art was reached in the late nineteenth 
century, and the tide is now visibly turning. But there were 
always eddies in the tide-stream. There were cross-currents 
even in the nineties, when English literary circles were domi- 
nated by a school of so-called aesthetes professing the doctrine 
that art must not subserve any utilitarian end but must be 
practised for its own sake alone. This cry of art for art’s sake 
was in some ways ambiguous; it did not, for example, 
distinguish art proper from amusement, and the art which 
its partisans admired and practised was in fact a shameless 
amusement art, amusing a select and self-appointed clique; 
but in one way it was perfectly definite: it ruled out magical 
art altogether. Into the perfumed and stuffy atmosphere 
of this china-shop burst Rudyard Kipling, young, nervous, 
short-sighted, and all on fire with the notion of using his 
very able pen to evoke and canalize the emotions which in 
his Indian life he had found to be associated with the govern- 
ing of the British Empire. The aesthetes were horrified, not 
because they disapproved of imperialism, but because they 
disapproved of magical art; Kipling had blundered right up 
against their most cherished taboo. What was worse, he 
made a huge success of it. Thousands of people who knew 
those emotions as the steam in the engine of their daily work 
took him to their hearts. But Kipling was a morbidly sensi- 
tive little man, and the rebuff he had met with from the 
aesthetes blasted the early summer of his life. Henceforth he 
was torn between two ideals, and could pursue neither with 
undivided allegiance. 

To-day the boot is on the other leg. It is Kipling, and 
not Wilde, whose principles are in favour. Most of our 
leading young writers have reverted to magical art; and this 
reversion is by far the most conspicuous fact in English art 


to-day. To the aesthetician it is unimportant that this new 
magical literature is the propaganda no longer of imperialism 
but of communism. It is unimportant to him (though very 
important to the politician) that, of the two warring creeds 
which are dividing the inheritance of nineteenth-century 
liberalism, communism appears to have tongue, eyes, and 
fingers, and fascism only teeth and claws. What is important 
to the aesthetician is the re-emergence of a very old kind of 
aesthetic consciousness: one which reverses the painfully 
taught lesson of nineteenth-century criticism, and instead of 
saying ‘never mind about the subject; the subject is only a 
corpus vile on which the artist has exercised his powers, and 
what concerns you is the artist’s powers and the way in 
which he has here displayed them’, says ‘the artist’s powers 
can be displayed only when he uses them upon a subject 
that is worthy of them’. This new aesthetic consciousness 
involves a two-eyed stance. It regards the subject as an 
integral element in the work of art; it holds that, in order to 
appreciate any given work of art, one must be interested in its 
subject for its own sake, as well as in the artist’s handling of it. 

To the aesthetician trained in a nineteenth-century school, 
these are words of horror. To take them seriously would 
mean looking forward to an age of artistic decadence and 
barbarism: an age when the infinitely difficult quest of 
artistic perfection will be shelved in favour of an easy pro- 
paganda; when artists will be judged not on their artistic 
merits but on their conformity with the political and moral 
and economic dogmas accepted by the society to which they 
belong; when the hard- won freedom of modern art will be 
thrown away, and obscurantism will reign supreme. 

I will not pursue this question further. In another place 
we shall have to consider it seriously. For the present, we 
will simply register the facts that a recrudescence of magical 
art is going on before our eyes, and that aesthetic theorists 
and critics are in two minds how to take it. 

I spoke of a recrudescence. But it appears as a recrudes- 
cence only if we take a very snobbish or high-brow view of 


' what constitutes art. The self-elected circle of artists and 
litterateurs have no monopoly of artistic production. Out- 
side that circle we have had two vigorous streams at least 
of artistic tradition since the Renaissance; and in each case 
the magical quality of the art is unmistakable. 

First, there is the native art of the poor: in particular, that 
rustic or peasant art which goes by the patronizing name of 
folk-art. This folk-art, consisting of songs and dances and 
stories and dramas which in this country (with its tradition 
of a patronizing contempt for the poor) were allowed to perish 
almost completely 1 before ‘educated’ persons had become 
aware of their existence, was largely magical in its origin 
and motive. It was the magical art of an agricultural people. 

Secondly, there are the traditional low-brow arts of the 
upper classes. Of these (since their nature is very often 
misunderstood) it will be necessary to speak in greater 
detail. I refer to such things as the prose of the pulpit, the 
verse of hymns, the instrumental music of the military band 
and the dance band, the decoration of drawing-rooms, and 
so forth. I can see the high-brow reader pulling a face and 
hear him cry ‘This, God help us, is not art at all’. I know; 
but it is magic; and now that the relation between art and 
magic is becoming an important problem once more, no 
longer to be dismissed with a facile negation, it concerns the 
aesthetician to find that magic has been flourishing, unre- 
cognized but omnipresent, among the leaders (as they think 
themselves) of a society whose claim to enlightenment is 
based on its belief that it has given magic up altogether. 

The case of religious art eo nomine , with its hymns and 
ceremonies and ritual acts, hardly needs analysis. Obviously 
its function is to evoke, and constantly re-evoke, certain 
emotions whose discharge is to be effected in the activities 
of everyday life. In calling it magical I am not denying its 
claim to the title religious. Now that we have given up using 
the word ‘magic’ as a term of abuse, and have decided what 

1 By 1893, 140 ‘fairy tales’ had been collected in England; few others have 
been found since. In 1870-90, France and Italy yielded over 1,000 each. 


it means, no one need fasten it upon things because he dis- 
likes them, or hesitate to use it for things which he respects. 
Magic and religion are not the same thing, for magic is the 
evocation of emotions that are needed for the work of practical 
life, and a religion is a creed, or system of beliefs about the 
world, which is also a scale of values or system of conduct. 
But every religion has its magic, and what is commonly 
called ‘practising’ a religion is practising its magic. 

Equally obvious, or jhardly less so, is the case of patriotic 
art, whether the patriotism be national or civic or attached 
to a party or class or any other corporate body: the patriotic 
poem, the school song, the portraits of worthies or statues of 
statesmen, the war-memorial, the pictures or plays recalling 
historic events, military music, and all the innumerable 
forms of pageantry, procession, and ceremonial whose pur- 
pose is to stimulate loyalty towards country or city or party 
or class or family or any other social or political unit. All 
these are magical in so far as they are meant to arouse 
emotions not discharged there and then, in the experience 
that evokes them, but canalized into the activities of every- 
day life and modifying those activities in the interest of the 
social or political unit concerned. 

Another group of examples may be found in the rituals 
which we commonly call sport. Fox-hunting and amateur 
football are primarily not amusements, practised for the sake 
of harmless entertainment; not means of physical training, 
intended to develop bodily strength and skill; they are ritual 
activities, undertaken as social duties and surrounded by all 
the well-known marks and trappings of magic: the ritual 
costume, the ritual vocabulary, the ritual instruments, and 
above all the sense of electedness, or superiority over the 
common herd, which always distinguishes the initiate and the 
hierophant. And in saying this I am not saying anything 
new. The ordinary man 1 has already reflected sufficiently 
on these things to have formed a just appreciation of their 


1 And the anthropologist is quite familiar with" my point, Cf. A. M. 
Hocart, The Progress of Man (1933). 


purpose. He regards them as methods of what he calls 
‘training character’, whose function is to fit their devotees for 
the work of living, and in particular for the work of living in 
that station to which it has pleased God to call them. These 
sports, we are told, inculcate a team-spirit, a sense of fair 
play, a habit of riding straight and taking one’s fences like a 
man. In other words, they generate certain emotions destined 
to be discharged in certain kinds of everyday situations, with- 
out which these situations would not be faced in a becoming 
manner. They are the magical part of the religion of being 
a gentleman. And even their harshest critics do not deny 
this. They do not say that these sports are not magical, or 
that their magic is not efficacious. What they say is that the 
emotions generated by this traditional English upper-class 
magic are not the emotions that best equip a man to live 
effectively in the world as it exists to-day. 

As a last group of examples, we will consider the cere- 
monies of social life: such things as weddings, funerals, 
dinner-parties, dances; forms of pageantry (and therefore, 
potentially at least, forms of art) which decorate in their 
fashion the private lives of modern civilized men and women. 
All these are in essence magical. They all involve dressing 
up, and a dressing-up which is done not for amusement, 
and not for the gratification of individual taste, but according 
to a prescribed pattern, often very uncomfortable, and always 
so designed as to emphasize the solemnity of the occasion. 
This is what anthropologists call the ritual dress of the 
initiate. They all involve prescribed forms of speech and at 
any rate the rudiments of a ritual vocabulary. They all 
involve ritual instruments: a ring, a hearse, a peculiar and 
complicated outfit of knives and forks and glasses, each with 
its prescribed function. Almost always they involve the use 
of flowers of prescribed kinds, arranged in a prescribed 
manner, offerings to the genius of the ritual. They always 
involve a prescribed demeanour, a ritual gaiety or a ritual 

As for their purpose, each one is consciously and explicitly 


aimed at arousing certain emotions which are meant to 
fructify in the later business of practical life. 

The pageantry of marriage has nothing to do with the 
fact, when it is a fact, that the principals are in love with each 
other. On that subject it is dumb; and this is why many 
persons deeply in love detest it as an insult to their passion, 
and undergo it only because they are forced into it by 
the opinion of their families. Its purpose is to create an 
emotional motive for maintaining a partnership of a certain 
kind, not the partnership of lovers but the partnership of 
married people, recognized as such by the world, whether 
love is present or no. 

The funeral is an emotional reorientation of a different 
kind. The mourners are not, essentially, making a public 
exhibition of their grief; they are publicly laying aside their 
old emotional relation to a living person and taking up a new 
emotional relation to that same person as dead. The funeral 
is their public undertaking that they are going to live in 
future without him. How difficult an undertaking to fulfil 
completely, which of us knows his own heart well enough to 

The ceremonial of a dinner-party is intended to create 
or renew a bond, not of understanding or interest or policy, 
but simply of emotion, among the diners, and more par- 
ticularly between the host and each several guest. It 
consolidates and crystallizes a sentiment of friendship, at 
best making each feel what a charming person the other is, 
and at worst, that he is not such a bad fellow after all. It 
would be a poor dinner-party in which these feelings were 
not to some extent evoked, and did not to some extent 
survive the party itself. 

The dance has always been magical; and so it still is 
among ourselves. In its modern and ‘civilized’ form it is 
essentially a courtship-ritual. Its intention is to arouse in the 
young of each sex an interest in some member of the other 
sex, to be selected in the ritual act itself from among the 
persons qualified by birth and upbringing (that is to say, 


by proper initiations undergone at the various critical stages 
of life) to unite together in matrimony. This interest, so far 
from being satisfied and therefore exhausted in the dance 
itself, is intended to fructify in a future partnership. At 
bottom, as our more outspoken grandmothers quite correctly 
put it, a ball is the occasion on which girls find husbands. 

True to type, all these magical ceremonies are represen- 
tative. They literally, though selectively, represent the 
practical activities they are intended to promote. Like the 
war-dance and the plough-ritual, they are ‘symbolic’ in 
the sense of that word defined under protest at the end of 
Chapter III, § 4. Thus, in marriage, the principals join 
hands and walk arm-in-arm through the company, to sym- 
bolize their partnership in the eyes of the world. At a 
funeral, the mourners leave the dead behind them to sym- 
bolize their renunciation of the emotional attitude which 
they maintained towards him in life. At a dinner party, 
host and guest eat the same food to symbolize the sense of 
intimacy and friendliness that is to pervade their more 
sympathetic future relations. At a dance the embrace of 
partners is a symbol for the embrace of love. 

Regarded from the strictly aesthetic point of view, all 
these rituals are in general as mediocre as an average 
Academy portrait, and for the same reason. The artistic 
motive is present in them all ; but it is enslaved and denatured 
by its subordination to the magical. Hymn-tunes and 
patriotic songs do not as a rule inspire respect in a musician. 
A ballet-master is not likely to feel much enthusiasm for a 
meet of foxhounds or a cricket-match. The stage manage- 
ment of a wedding or dinner-party is seldom of high quality; 
and a professional dancer would have little praise for what 
goes on at a fashionable ball. But this is of a piece with the 
strictly magical character of these rituals : or rather, with the 
representative character of which their magical character is 
one specific form. They are not art proper, any more than 
a portrait or a landscape. Like these things, they have a 
primary function which is wholly non-aesthetic : the function 


of generating specific emotions. Like them, they may in 
the hands of a true artist (who is never to be thought of as 
separable from a public that demands true art) become art 
as well; and if the artistic and magical motives are felt as 
one motive, this is bound to happen, as it happened among 
the Aurignacian and Magdalenian cave-men, the ancient 
Egyptians, the Greeks, and the medieval Europeans. It can 
never happen so long as the motives are felt as distinct, as 

among ourselves they invariably are. 


Note on § 2. — The immediate subject of this book brings me into contact 
only with Chapter III of Freud’s Totem and Taboo . The reader will perhaps 
pardon me if I add that everything I have said about that chapter applies 
mutatis mutandis to the rest. The fallacies are inherent in the principle which 
actuated Freud in writing the book: the principle of ‘applying the view-points 
and results of psycho-analysis to unexplained problems of racial psychology’. 
In plainer English, this means explaining the oddities of savage belief and be- 
haviour by analogy with oddities observed by psycho-analysts in their patients. 
But Wage’ ,here, means only ‘belonging to any civilization markedly different 
from that of modern Europe’; and the ‘oddities’ of savage belief and behaviour 
are only such points as seem odd to a modern European, i.e. the points in which 
that difference consists. So, in still plainer English, Freud’s programme is to 
reduce the differences between non-European and European civilizations to 
differences between mental disease and mental health. Is it surprising that 
‘the savage hits back’ ? 

This is not the place to lay bare in detail the quibbles and sophistries by 
which Freud persuades himself (and others too, apparently) that his programme 
has been carried out. My purpose in this note is to remark that a person who 
can attempt to equate the difference between civilizations with the difference 
between mental disease and mental health, in other words to reduce the his- 
torical problem of the nature of civilization to a medical problem, is a person 
whose views on all problems connected with the nature of civilization will be 
false in proportion as he sticks honestly to his attempt, and dangerously false in 
proportion as his prestige in his own field stands high. Among these problems 
is that of the nature of art. 




§ x . Amusement Art 

If an artifact is designed to stimulate a certain emotion, and 
if this emotion is intended not for discharge into the occupa- 
tions of ordinary life, but for enjoyment as something of value 
in itself, the function of the artifact is to amuse or entertain. 
Magic is useful, in the sense that the emotions it excites 
have a practical function in the affairs of every day; amuse- 
ment is not useful but only enjoyable, because there is a 
watertight bulkhead between its world and the world of 
common affairs. The emotions generated by amusement 
run their course within this watertight compartment. 

Every emotion, dynamically considered, has two phases 
in its existence: charge or excitation, and discharge. The 
discharge of an emotion is some act done at the prompting 
of that emotion, by doing which we work the emotion off 
and relieve ourselves of the tension which, until thus dis- 
charged, it imposes upon us. The emotions generated by an 
amusement must be discharged, like any others; but they 
are discharged within the amusement itself. This is in fact 
the peculiarity of amusement. An amusement is a device 
for the discharge of emotions in such a way that they shall 
not interfere with the concerns of practical life. But since 
practical life is only definable as that part of life which is not 
amusement, this statement, if meant for a definition, would 
be circular. We must therefore say: to establish a distinction 
between amusement and practical life 1 is to divide experi- 
ence into two parts, so related that the emotions generated 
in the one are not allowed to discharge themselves in the 
other. In the one, emotions are treated as ends in them- 
selves; in the other, as forces whose operation achieves cer- 

1 Aestheticians who discuss the relation between two mutually exclusive 
things called ‘Art’ and ‘Life’ are really discussing this distinction. 


tain ends beyond them. The first part is now called amuse- 
ment, the second part practical life. 

In order that emotion may be discharged without affecting 
practical life, a make-believe situation must be created in 
which to discharge it. This situation will of course be one 
which ‘represents’ (cf. Chapter III, § 4) the real situation in 
which the emotion would discharge itself practically. The 
difference between the two, which has been indicated by 
calling them respectively real and make-believe, is simply 
this : the so-called make-believe situation is one in which it is 
understood that the emotion discharged shall be ‘earthed’, 
that is, shall not involve the consequences which it would 
involve under the conditions of practical life. Thus, if one 
man expresses hatred for another by shaking his fist at him, 
threatening him, and so forth, he will ordinarily be regarded 
as a dangerous character, dangerous in particular to the man 
he has threatened, who will therefore take steps of one kind 
or another to protect himself : perhaps by appeasing the first, 
perhaps by attacking him and overpowering him, perhaps 
by obtaining police protection. If it is understood that 
nothing of this sort is to be done, that life is to go on exactly 
as if nothing had happened, then the situation in which the 
anger was expressed is called a make-believe situation. 

Situations of this kind resemble those created by magic in 
being representative, that is, in evoking emotions like those 
evoked by the situations they are said to represent. They 
differ in being ‘unreal’ or ‘make-believe’ ; that is, in that the 
emotions they evoke are intended to be earthed instead of 
overflowing into the situations represented. This element 
of make-believe is what is known as (theatrical) ‘illusion’, an 
element peculiar to amusement art, and never found either 
in magic or in art proper. If in a magical ritual one says of a 
painting ‘this is a bison’, or of a wax figure ‘this is my 
enemy’, there is no illusion. One knows perfectly well the 
difference between the two things. The make-believe of 
amusement art differs radically, again, from the so-called 
make-believe of childish games, which is not amusement but 


a very serious kind of work, which we call make-believe by 
way of assimilating it to something that occurs in our adult 
experience. Calling it by that misdescriptive name, we 
patronizingly license the child to go on with it; so that the 
child can work at the really urgent problems of its own life 
unhampered by the interference which would certainly be 
forthcoming if adults knew what it was doing. 

Comparisons have often been made, sometimes amounting 
to identification, between art and play. They have never 
thrown much light on the nature of art, because those who 
have made them have not troubled to think what they meant 
by play. If playing means amusing oneself, as it often does, 
there is no important resemblance between play and art 
proper; and none between play and representative art in its 
magical form; but there is more than a mere resemblance 
between play and amusement art. The two things are the 
same. If playing means taking part in ritual games, art 
proper bears little resemblance to that, and amusement art 
even less; but such games, as we have already seen, not only 
resemble magic, they are magic. But there is another thing 
we call play: that mysterious activity which occupies the 
waking and working lives of children. It is not amusement, 
though we adults may amuse ourselves by imitating it, and 
even on privileged occasions taking part in it. It is not 
magic, though in some ways rather like it. Perhaps it is 
a good deal like art proper. Giambattista Vico, who knew 
a lot both about poetry and about children, said that children 
were ‘sublime poets’, and he may have been right. But no 
one knows what children are doing when they play; it is 
far easier to find out what poets are doing when they write, 
difficult though that is; and even if art proper and children’s 
play are the same thing, no light is thrown for most of us 
on art proper by saying so. 1 

1 Dr. Margaret Lowenfeld (Play in Childhood , 1935) has devised a 
method for exploring the unknown world of children’s play, and has made 
stran|e discoveries about the relation of this play to the child’s health. My 
own interpretation of her discoveries may be expressed by saying that they 
suggest an identity between ‘play’ in children and art proper. On the 


There is a hedonistic theory of art: open, like all forms of 
hedonism, to the objection that even if the function of art is 
to give ‘delight’ (as many good artists have said), still this 
delight is not pleasure in general but pleasure of a particular 
kind. When this objection has been met, the theory is a 
fair enough account of amusement art. The artist as pur- 
veyor of amusement makes it his business to please his 
audience by arousing certain emotions in them and providing 
them with a make-believe situation in which these emotions 
can be harmlessly discharged. 

The experience of being amused is sought not for the sake 
of anything to which it stands as means, but for its own sake. 
Hence, while magic is utilitarian, amusement is not utili- 
tarian but hedonistic. The work of art, so called, which 
provides the amusement, is, on the contrary, strictly utili- 
tarian. Unlike a work of art proper, it has no value in itself; 
it is simply means to an end. It is as skilfully constructed as a 
work of engineering, as skilfully compounded as a bottle of 
medicine, to produce a determinate and preconceived effect, 
the evocation of a certain kind of emotion in a certain kind 
of audience; and to discharge this emotion within the limits 
of a make-believe situation. When the arts are described in 
terms implying that they are essentially forms of skill, the 
reference, as the terms are ordinarily used nowadays, is 
to this utilitarian character of amusement art. When the 
spectator’s reception of them is described in psychological 
terms as a reaction to stimulus, the reference is the same. 
Theoretically, in both cases, the reference might be to 
the magical type of representation; but in the modern 
world that is generally ignored. For the student of modern 
aesthetic, it is a good rule, whenever he hears or reads 
statements about art which seem odd or perverse or untrue, 
to ask whether their oddity (or apparent oddity) may not 
be due to a confusion between art proper and amusement; 

relation between art and health of mind (involving health of body so far as 
psychological causes may impair or improve bodily health), I shall have 
something to say later on (Chapter X, § 7 ; Chapter XII, § 3). 


a confusion cither in the mind of their authors, or in his 


§ 2. Profit and Delight 1 

Magical function and amusement function in a work of 
art are of course mutually exclusive, so far as a given emotion 
in a given audience at a given moment is concerned. You 
cannot arouse in your audience a certain emotion (say, 
hatred of the Persians) and arrange at one and the same 
moment for its discharge in an amusement form, by raising 
a laugh at their expense, and in a practical form, by burning 
down their houses. But the emotion aroused by any given 
representation is never simple; it is always a more or less 
complicated stream or pattern of different emotions; and 
it is not necessary that all these should be provided with the 
same kind of discharge. In a general way, some are dis- 
charged practically, others earthed; the artist, if he knows his 
job, arranging which shall be discharged in this way, which 
in that. So Horace: omne tulit punctum qui miscuit utile dulci\ 
where the utile is the discharge of an emotion into practice, 
the dulce its discharge in the make-believe of amusement. 
‘We do not write these novels merely to amuse’, says 
Captain Marryat in Midshipman Easy, and goes on to boast 
that he has used his novels not unsuccessfully in the past 
to advocate reforms in naval administration. Mr. Bernard 
Shaw is another devout follower of Horace. There has never 
been any damned nonsense about art with him; he has 
careered through life most successfully as an entertainer, 
careful always to keep a few ball cartridges among his blank, 
and send his audience home indignant about the way people 
treat their wives, or something like that. But although he 
follows the same tradition as Marryat, it is doubtful whether 
he could claim an equal record of success as a pamphleteer. 
The difference is not so much between one writer and another 
as between one age and another. In the hundred years that 

1 The ends of all, who for the Scene doe write 
Are, or should be, to profit, and delight. 

B. Jonson, Epiccene, or the Silent Woman. 


have elapsed since Midshipman Easy was published, the 
ability of both artists and public to mix a dose of magic with 
their amusement has sensibly declined. Mr. Galsworthy 
began his career by putting so much utile and so little duke 
into his stage-puddings that only very determined stomachs 
could digest them at all. So he gave up playing with magic, 
and specialized in entertaining a rather grim class of readers 
with the doings of the Forsyte family. 

People who are not really competent in magic, as the fairy- 
tales wisely tell us, should be careful to leave it alone. One 
of the typical features of late nineteenth- and early twentieth- 
century literature is the way in which sound knockabout 
entertainers like Jerome K. Jerome or successful ginger-beer 
merchants like Mr. A. A. Milne suddenly come over all 
solemn, pull themselves together, and decide to become 
good influences in the lives of their audience. Nothing quite 
like it had ever happened before. It is a curious and un- 
pleasant instance of the decline in taste which the nineteenth 
century brought in its train. 

In general, the representational artist urgently needs to be 
a man of taste, in the sense that he must, on pain of profes- 
sional disaster, know what emotions to excite. Unless he 
means to act as a magician, like Timotheus in Dryden’s ode, 
and excite passions which those who feel them cannot 
discharge in anything short of practical acts, he must choose 
passions which, in the case of this particular audience, will 
submit to make-believe gratification. There is always a 
danger that, when once an emotion has been aroused, it may 
break down the watertight bulkhead and overflow into 
practical life; but it is the aim of both the amuser and the 
amused that this disaster shall not happen, and that by a 
loyal co-operation the bulkhead shall remain intact. The 
artist must steer a middle course. He must excite emotions 
which are closely enough connected with his audience’s 
practical life for their excitation to cause lively pleasure; 
but not so closely connected that a breach of the bulkhead is 
a serious danger. Thus, a play in which a foreign nation is 


held up to ridicule will not amuse an audience in whom 
there is no sense of hostility towards that nation ; but neither 
will it amuse one in whom this hostility has come near to 
boiling-point. A smoking-room story which amuses middle- 
aged clubmen would not amuse an old man who had 
out-grown sexual desire, nor a young man in whom it was 
agonizingly strong. 

§ 3. Examples of Amusement Art 

The emotions which admit of being thus played upon for 
purposes of amusement are infinitely various ; we shall take 
a few examples only. Sexual desire is highly adaptable to 
these purposes ; easily titillated, and easily put off with make- 
believe objects. Hence the kind of amusement art which at 
its crudest and most brutal is called pornography is very 
common and very popular. Not only the representation of 
nudity which reappeared in European painting and sculpture 
at the Renaissance, when art as magic was replaced by art 
as amusement, but the novel, or story based on a sexual 
motive, which dates from the same period, is essentially an 
appeal to the sexual emotions of the audience, not in order 
to stimulate these emotions for actual commerce between 
the sexes, but in order to provide them with make-believe 
objects and thus divert them from their practical goal in the 
interests of amusement. The extent to which this make- 
believe sexuality has affected modern life can hardly be 
believed until the fact has been tested by appeal to the 
circulating libraries, with their flood of love-stories; the 
cinema, where it is said to be a principle accepted by almost 
every manager that no film can succeed without a love- 
interest; and above all the magazine and newspaper, where 
cover-designs, news-items, fiction, and advertisement are 
steeped in materials of the same kind : erotic stories, pictures 
of pretty girls variously dressed and undressed, or (for the 
female reader) of attractive young men : pornography 
homoeopathically administered in doses too small to shock 
the desire for respectability, but quite large enough to 


produce the intended effect. Small wonder that Monsieur 
Bergson has called ours an ‘aphrodisiac civilization*. But the 
epithet is not quite just. It is not that we worship Aphrodite. 
If we did, we should fear these make-believes as a too 
probable cause of her wrath. An aphrodisiac is taken with 
a view to action : photographs of bathing girls are taken as a 
substitute for it. The truth may rather be that these things 
reveal a society in which sexual passion has so far decayed 
as to have become no longer a god, as for the Greeks, or a 
devil, as for the early Christians, but a toy: a society where 
the instinctive desire to propagate has been weakened by a 
sense that life, as we have made it, is not worth living, and 
where our deepest wish is to have no posterity. 

The case of sexual fantasy is peculiar, because it seems in 
this way to have got out of hand, and thus to betray something 
amiss with our civilization as a whole. There are plenty of 
other cases where this complication is absent. For example, 
much pleasure may be derived from the emotion of fear; 
and to-day this is provided by a galaxy of talent devoted to 
writing stories of terrible adventure. The ‘thriller’, to give 
the thing its current name, is not new. We find it on the 
Elizabethan stage, in the charnel-house sculpture of seven- 
teenth-century tombs (the Last Judgements of medieval art 
were aimed not at making flesh creep but at reforming sinful 
lives), in the novels of Mrs. Radcliffe and ‘Monk’ Lewis, in 
the engravings of Dor6, and, raised to the level of art proper, 
in the first movement of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and 
the Finale of Mozart’s Don Giovanni. Among ourselves, 
the spread of literacy has begotten upon the old penny 
dreadful a monstrous progeny of hair-raising fiction con- 
cerned with arch-criminals, gunmen, and sinister foreigners. 
Why the ghost story, once so valuable for this purpose, has 
lost its efficacy, although heathenish rites, with much explicit 
bloodshed and even more hinted obscenity, are still in lively 
demand, is a curious problem for the historian of ideas. 

The detective story, the most popular form of amusement 
offered by the profession of letters to the modern public, is 


based partly on appeal to the reader’s fear, but partly on a 
rich medley of other emotions. In Poe the element of fear 
was exceedingly strong, and either because of his influence, 
or because of something ingrained in the civilization of the 
United States, the present-day American detective story 
shows a stronger inclination towards that type than those of 
any other nation. American corpses are the bloodiest and 
most horribly mangled; American police the most savage in 
their treatment of suspects . 1 Another emotion of great 
importance in such stories is the delight in power. In what 
may be called the Raffles period, this was gratified by 
inviting the reader to identify himself with a gallant and 
successful criminal; nowadays the identification is with the 
detective. A third is the intellectual excitement of solving 
a puzzle; a fourth, the desire for adventure, that is to say, 
the desire to take part in events as unlike as possible to the 
dreary business of actual everyday life. Members of the 
scholastic and clerical professions from time to time express 
a belief that young people who read these stories, and see 
films resembling them, are thereby incited to a career of 
crime. This is bad psychology. There is no evidence that 
stories of crime are the favourite reading of habitual criminals. 
In point of fact, those who constantly read them are on the 
whole thoroughly law-abiding folk; and this is only natural, 
for the constant earthing of certain emotions, by arousing 
and discharging them in make-believe situations, makes it 
less likely that they will discharge themselves in practical life. 

No one has yet taken up the detective story and raised it 
to the level of genuine art. Miss Sayers, indeed, has given 
reasons why this cannot be done. Perhaps one reason is the 
mixture of motives which this genre has traditionally accepted 
as inevitable. A mixture of motives is, on the whole, favour- 
able to good amusement, but it can never produce art proper. 

1 Cf. Superintendent Kirk: ‘. . . I couldn’t rightly call them a mellering 
influence to a man in my line. I read an American story once, and the way 
the police carried on — well, it didn’t seem right to me.’ Dorothy L. Sayers, 
Busman's Honeymoon, p. 161. 


Malice, the desire that others, especially those better than 
ourselves, should suffer, is a perpetual source of pleasure to 
man ; but it takes different shapes. In Shakespeare and his 
contemporaries, bullying in its most violent form is so 
common that we can only suppose the average playgoer to 
have conceived it as the salt of life. There are extreme cases 
like Titus Andronicus and The Duchess of Malfi, where torture 
and insult form the chief subject-matter; cases like Vol- 
■pone or The Merchant of Venice , where the same motive is 
veiled by a decent pretence that the suffering is deserved; 
and cases like The Taming of the Shrew , where it is rationalized 
as a necessary step to domestic happiness. The same motive 
crops out so repeatedly in passages like the baiting of 
Malvolio or the beating of Pistol, passages wholly uncon- 
nected with the plot of the play, so far as these plays have 
a plot, that it has obviously been dragged in to meet a 
constant popular demand. The theme is raised to the level 
of art proper here and there in Webster, in a few of Shake- 
speare’s tragedies, and above all in Cervantes. 

In a society which has lost the habit of overt bullying, the 
literature of violence is replaced by the literature of cattish- 
ness. Our own circulating libraries are full of what is 
grandiloquently called satire on the social life of our time; 
books whose popularity rests on the fact that they give the 
reader an excuse for ridiculing the folly of youth and the 
futility of age, despising the frivolity of the educated and 
the grossness of the uneducated, gloating over the unhappiness 
of an ill-assorted couple, or triumphing over the. feebleness 
of a henpecked merchant prince. To the same class of 
pseudo-art (they are certainly not history) belong the 
biographies of cattishness, whose aim is to release the reader 
from the irksome reverence he has been brought up to feel 
for persons who were important in their day. 

if the Elizabethan was by temperament a bully, the Vic- 
torian was by temperament a snob. Literature dealing with 
high life at once excites and in fancy gratifies the social 
ambition of readers who feel themselves excluded from it; 


and a great part of the Victorian novelist’s work was devoted 
to making the middle classes feel as if they were sharing in 
the life of the upper. Nowadays, when ‘society’ has lost its 
glamour, a similar place is taken by novels and films dealing 
with millionaires, criminals, film-stars, and other envied 
persons. There is even a literature catering for the snobbery 
of culture: books and films about Beethoven, Shelley, or, 
combining two forms of snobbery in one, a lady in high 
station who wins fame as a painter. 

There are cases in which we find, not a mixture of amuse- 
ment and magic, but a wavering between the two. A con- 
siderable literature exists devoted to sentimental topography: 
books about the charm of Sussex, the magic of Oxford, 
picturesque Tyrol, or the glamour of old Spain. Are these 
intended merely to recall the emotions of returned travellers 
and to make others feel as if they had travelled, or are they 
meant as an invocation — I had almost said, to call fools into 
a circle? Partly the one and partly the other; if the choice 
had been decisively made, literature of this kind would be 
better than it is. Similar cases are the sentimental literature 
of the sea, addressed to landsmen, and of the country, 
addressed to town-dwellers ; folk-songs as sung not in pubs 
and cottages but in drawing-rooms; pictures of horses and 
dogs, deer and pheasants, hung in billiard-rooms partly as 
charms to excite the sportsman, partly as substitutes for sport. 
There is no reason why works of this kind should not be 
raised to the level of art, though cases in which that has 
happened are exceedingly rare. If it is to happen, there is 
one indispensable condition : the ambiguity of motive must 
first be cleared up. 

§ 4. Representation and the Critic 

The question may here be raised, how the practice of art- 
criticism is affected by identifying art with representation 
in either of its two forms. The critic’s business, as we have 
already seen, is to establish a consistent usage of terms: to 
settle the nomenclature of the various things which come 


before him competing for a given name, saying, ‘this is art, 
that is not art’, and, being an expert in this business, per- 
forming it with authority. A person qualified so to perform 
it is called a judge ; and judgement means verdict, the authori- 
tative announcement that, for example, a man is innocent or 
guilty. Now, the business of art-criticism has been going on 
ever since at least the seventeenth century; but it has always 
been beset with difficulties. The critic knows, and always 
has known, that in theory he is concerned with something 
objective. In principle* the question whether this piece of 
verse is a poem or a sham poem is a question of fact, on which 
every one who is properly qualified to judge ought to agree. 
But what he finds, and always has found, is that in the first 
place the critics as a rule do not agree ; in the second place, 
their verdict is as a rule reversed by posterity; and in the 
third place it is hardly ever welcomed and accepted as useful 
either by the artists or by the general public. 

When the disagreements of critics are closely studied, it 
becomes evident that there is much more behind them than 
mere human liability to form different opinions about the 
same thing. The verdict of a jury in court, as judges are 
never tired of telling them, is a matter of opinion ; and hence 
they sometimes disagree. But if they disagreed in the kind 
of way in which art-critics disagree, trial by jury would have 
been experimented with only once, if that, before being 
abolished for ever. The two kinds of disagreement differ 
in that the juror, if the case is being handled by a competent 
judge, has only one point at which he can go wrong. He 
has to give a verdict, and the judge tells him what the 
principles are upon which he must give it. The art-critic 
also has to give a verdict; but there is no agreement between 
him and his colleagues as to the principles on which it must 
be given. 

This divergence of principle is not due to unsolved 
philosophical problems. It does not arise from divergences 
between rival theories of art. It arises at a point in thought 
which is prior to the formation of any aesthetic theory what- 


ever. The critic is working in a world where most people, 
when they speak of a good painting or a good piece of writing, 
mean simply that it pleases them, and pleases specifically 
in the way of amusement. The simpler and more vulgar 
make no bones about this; I don’t know what ’s good, they 
say, but I know what I like. The more refined and artistic 
reject this idea with horror. It makes no difference whether 
you like it or not, they retort; the question is whether it is 
good. The protest is in principle perfectly right; but in 
practice it is humbug. It implies that whereas the so-called 
art of the vulgar is not art but only amusement, about which 
there is of course no objective goodness or badness but only 
the fact that a given thing amuses or does not amuse a given 
audience, the art of more refined persons is not amusement 
but art proper. This is simply snobbery. There is no 
difference in attitude between the people who go to see 
Gracie Fields and the people who go to see Ruth Draper 
except that, having been differently brought up, they are 
amused by different things. The cliques of artists and writers 
consist for the most part of a racket selling amusement 
to people who at all costs must be prevented from thinking 
themselves vulgar, and a conspiracy to call it not amusement 
but art. 

The people who fancy themselves altogether above the 
vulgar level of amusement art, but are actually disporting 
themselves in that level and nowhere else, call their own 
amusements good art in so far as they find them amusing. 
The critic is therefore in a false position. He is committed, 
in so far as he himself belongs to these people and shares their 
shibboleths, to treating what is in fact a question of their 
likes and dislikes, their taste in amusements, as if it were that 
totally different thing, a question of merits and demerits in 
a given artist’s work. And even that way of putting it makes 
his task seem easier than it really is. If these refined persons 
formed a perfectly compact psychological mob, what amused 
one would amuse all, as the same joke may please all members 
of a mess or a common-room. But in so far as their only 


bond is the negative one of refinement, which only means 
being unlike the people they regard as vulgar, they cannot 
as a whole exhibit a compact mob-psychology, and different 
fractions will be amused by different things. The critic’s 
task is now hopeless, because the reasons why some people 
belonging to these circles call a book or a picture good will 
be the very same reasons why others, equally entitled to life, 
liberty, and the pursuit of amusement, will call it bad. And 
even if a certain kind of taste may for a time dominate the 
whole, or a large part of it, this is sure to be succeeded by 
another, from whose point of view the things that amused 
the earlier will be said to ‘date’ ; a very curious word, which 
nicely blows the gaff of all this sham criticism; for if it had 
been a question of genuine art — ‘voyons, Monsieur, le 
temps ne fait rien k 1’affaire’. 

The critic is generally despised, but he ought rather to be 
pitied. The villains of the piece are the self-styled artists. 
They have assured him that they are doing something which 
it will be worth his while to study, and have then done some- 
thing else, on which no critic would waste an hour’s thought. 
If the gigantic ramp by which the trade in genteel amuse- 
ments passes itself off as art were once for all exposed, the 
critics could either come out frankly as the advertisement 
writers which many of them are, or stop bothering about 
sham art and concentrate, as some of them already do, on 
the real thing. 

So long as art is identified with amusement, criticism is 
impossible; and the fact of its having been so long and so 
valiantly attempted is a remarkable proof of the tenacity 
with which the modern European consciousness sticks to its 
point that there is such a thing as art, and that some day we 
shall learn how to distinguish it from the amusement trade. 1 

1 It is hardly necessary to remark that the amusement racket has succeeded 
in corrupting quite a number of academic and other theoretical writers who 
base their aesthetic, or rather anti-aesthetic, on the identification of art with 
that which evokes a certain kind of emotion; with the consequence that 
‘beauty’ is ‘subjective’, Man (and what a man !) is the measure of all things, 
and the critics, not (presumably) being Men but only heroes who have held 


If art is identified with magic, the same conclusion follows; 
but this conclusion, in a society where magic is at all vigorous, 
may easily be masked by the substitution of a false objec- 
tivity for a true objectivity, an empirical generality for a 
strict universality. A matter of fact, as that this person did 
this act, or that this thing is a poem, is valid for everybody at 
every time and place. The ‘goodness’ or ‘beauty’ of a ‘work 
of art’, if goodness or beauty means power of exciting certain 
emotions in the person using the word, has no such validity; 
it exists only in relation to the person in whom these emo- 
tions are aroused. It may happen that the same work will 
arouse the same emotions in others; but this will happen on a 
considerable scale only when the society in which it occurs 
thinks it necessary to its welfare. 

That phrase is susceptible, we may note in passing, of 
two interpretations, (i) On a biological view of society, a 
society will consist of animals of a certain kind which through 
the action of such causes as heredity all possess a certain 
type of psychological organization. Owing to the uniformity 
of this organization, a stimulus of a specific kind will produce 
in all members of the society a specific type of emotion. The 
emotion will be necessary to the welfare of the society, 
because it is part and parcel of the psychological organization 
whose identity in all members of the society constitutes its 
principle of unity; and in so far as its members are conscious 
of this principle they will see that this emotional unanimity 
is necessary to their corporate existence, as a biological fact 
on which that existence depends. (2) On an historical view 
of society, a society will consist of persons who through com- 
munication by language have worked out a certain way of 
living together. So far as each one of them feels his own 
interests as bound up with those of the society, everything 
which forms part of this common way of living will have to 
him an emotional value, the strength of this emotion being the 
force that binds the society together. In that case, anything 

a key-position of the civilized world for two centuries and a half against 
overwhelming odds, find that the pass has been sold behind their backs. 


intimately connected with their common way of living will 
arouse in all members of the society the same type of 
emotional response. 

On either view, therefore, wherever there is a society of any 
kind, there will be certain established forms of corporate 
magic, whereby certain standard stimuli evoke certain stan- 
dard emotional responses from all its members. If these 
stimuli are called ‘works of art’, they are conceived as possess- 
ing a ‘goodness’ or ‘beauty’ which in fact is merely their power 
to evoke these responses. In so far as the society is really 
a society, the appropriate response is really evoked in all its 
members, and if they misuse words in this way, they will 
all agree that the ‘work of art’ is ‘good’ or ‘beautiful’. But 
this agreement is only an empirical generality, holding good 
within the society because the society just consists of those 
persons who share it. Enemies without, or even mere 
foreigners, and traitors within, will just as necessarily 
disagree. So long as magic is taken for art, these agreements 
and disagreements will be taken for criticism; and in any 
given society it will be thought the mark of a good critic to 
insist that the common magic of the society is good art. 

Reduced to these terms, criticism becomes nugatory. 
In this country and at the present time there is not much 
danger of the reduction. There are not many people, or if 
there are they are not influential, who think we ought to 
support home industries by taking pains to bestow special 
admiration on English poetry or English music or English 
painting because it is English; or even that a decent patrio- 
tism should prevent us from criticizing the words or music 
of God Save the King or the annual Academy portraits of the 
Royal Family. But mistakes are often made by inverting the 
same misconception. As we saw at the end of the preceding 
chapter, many things which are or might be called art, even 
among ourselves and to-day, are in fact a combination of art 
and magic in which the predominant motive is magical. 
What is demanded of them is that they should discharge a 
magical function, not an artistic one. If a musical critic tells 

4436 jj 


us that God Save the King is a bad tune, well and good; it is 
a matter on which he has a right to speak. Perhaps after 
all the Elizabethans were wrong to think John Bull a 
competent musician. But if he goes on to tell us that we 
ought on that account to replace it with a new national 
anthem by a better composer, he is confusing an artistic 
question with a magical one. To condemn magic for being 
bad art is just as foolish as to praise art for being good magic. 
And when we find an artist trying to convince us that our 
public statues, for example, are artistically bad and ought on 
that account to be demolished, we cannot help wondering 
whether he is a fool or a knave : a fool for not knowing these 
things to be primarily magic, valuable for their magical 
qualities and not at all for their artistic, or a knave for know- 
ing this perfectly well, but concealing it in order to use 
his own artistic prestige as a stalking-horse behind which he 
can make a treacherous attack on the emotions which bind 
our society together. 

§ 5. Amusement in the Modern World 

We have already seen that amusement implies a bifurca- 
tion of experience into a ‘real’ part and a ‘make-believe’ part, 
and that the make-believe part is called amusement in so 
far as the emotions aroused in it are also discharged in it and 
are not allowed to overflow into the affairs of ‘real’ life. 

This bifurcation is no doubt as ancient as man himself; but 
in a healthy society it is so slight as to be negligible. Danger 
sets in when by discharging their emotions upon make- 
believe situations people come to think of emotion as some- 
thing that can be excited and enjoyed for its own sake, without 
any necessity to pay for it in practical consequences. Amuse- 
ment is not the same thing as enjoyment; it is enjoyment which 
is had without paying for it. Or rather, without paying for it 
in cash. It is put down in the bill and has to be paid for later 
on. For example, I get a certain amount of fun out of writing 
this book. But I pay for it as I get it, in wretched drudgery 
when the book goes badly, in seeing the long summer days 


vanish one by one past my window unused, in knowing that 
there will be proofs to correct and index to make, and at the 
end black looks from the people whose toes I am treading on. 
If I knock off and lie in the garden for a day and read Dorothy 
Sayers, I get fun out of that too ; but there is nothing to pay. 
There is only a bill run up, which is handed in next day when 
I get back to my book with that Monday-morning feeling. 
Of course, there may be no Monday-morning feeling: I may 
get back to the book feeling fresh and energetic, with my 
staleness gone. In that base my day off turned out to be not 
amusement but recreation. The difference between them 
consists in the debit or credit effect they produce on the 
emotional energy available for practical life. 

Amusement becomes a danger to practical life when the 
debt it imposes on these stores of energy is too great to be 
paid off in the ordinary course of living. When this reaches 
a point of crisis, practical life, or ‘real’ life, becomes emotion- 
ally bankrupt ; a state of things which we describe by speaking 
of its intolerable dullness or calling it a drudgery. A moral 
disease has set in, whose symptoms are a constant craving 
for amusement and an inability to take any interest in the 
affairs of ordinary life, the necessary work of livelihood and 
social routine. A person in whom the disease has become 
chronic is a person with a more or less settled conviction that 
amusement is the only thing that makes life worth living. 
A society in which the disease is endemic is one in which 
most people feel some such conviction most of the time. 

A moral (or in modern jargon a psychological) disease 
may or may not be fatal to the person suffering from it; he 
may be driven to suicide, as the only release from taedium 
vitae , or he may try to escape it by going in for crime or 
revolution or some other exciting business, or he may take 
to drink or drugs, or simply allow himself to be engulfed in 
a slough of dullness, a dumbly accepted life in which nothing 
interesting ever happens, tolerable only when he does not 
think how intolerable it is. But moral diseases have this 
peculiarity, that they may be fatal to a society in which they 


are endemic without being fatal to any of its members. A 
society consists in the common way of life which its members 
practise; if they become so bored with this way of life that 
they begin to practise a different one, the old society is dead 
even if no one noticed its death. 

This is perhaps not the only disease from which societies 
may die, but it is certainly one of them. It is certainly, for 
example, the disease from which Greco-Roman society died. 
Societies may die a violent death, like the Inca and Aztec 
societies which the Spaniards destroyed with gunpowder in 
the sixteenth century ; and it is sometimes thought by people 
who have been reading historical thrillers that the Roman 
Empire died in the same way, at the hands of barbarian 
invaders. That theory is amusing but untrue. It died of 
disease, not of violence, and the disease was a long-growing 
and deep-seated conviction that its own way of life was not 
worth preserving. 

The same disease is notoriously endemic among ourselves. 
Among its symptoms are the unprecedented growth of the 
amusement trade, to meet what has become an insatiable 
craving; an almost universal agreement that the kinds of 
work on which the existence of a civilization like ours most 
obviously depends (notably the work of industrial operatives 
and the clerical staff in business of every kind, and even that 
of the agricultural labourers and other food-winners who 
are the prime agents in the maintenance of every civilization 
hitherto existing) is an intolerable drudgery; the discovery 
that what makes this intolerable is not the pinch of poverty 
or bad housing or disease but the nature of the work itself 
in the conditions our civilization has created; the demand 
arising out of this discovery, and universally accepted as 
reasonable, for an increased provision of leisure, which 
means opportunity for amusement, and of amusements to 
fill it; the use of alcohol, tobacco, and many other drugs, not 
for ritual purposes, but to deaden the nerves and distract the 
mind from the tedious and irritating concerns of ordinary 
life; the almost universal confession that boredom, or lack of 


interest in life, is felt as a constant or constantly recurring 
state of mind; the feverish attempts to dispel this boredom 
either by more amusement or by dangerous or criminal 
occupations; and finally (to cut the catalogue short) the 
discovery, familiar mutatis mutandis to every bankrupt in the 
last stages of his progress, that customary remedies have lost 
their bite and that the dose must be increased. 

These symptoms are enough to alarm any one who thinks 
about the future of the world in which he is living; enough 
to alarm even those whose thought for the future goes no 
farther than their own lifetime. They suggest that our 
civilization has been caught in a vortex, somehow connected 
with its attitude towards amusement, and that some disaster 
is impending which, unless we prefer to shut our eyes to it 
and perish, if we are to perish, in the dark, it concerns 
us to understand. 

A history of amusement in Europe would fall into two 
chapters. The first, entitled panem et circenses , would deal 
with amusement in the decadent world of antiquity, the shows 
of the Roman theatre and amphitheatre, taking over their 
material from the religious drama and games of the archaic 
Greek period; the second, called le monde oil l' on s' amuse, 
would describe amusement in the Renaissance and modern 
ages, at first aristocratic, furnished by princely artists to 
princely patrons, then transformed by degrees through the 
democratization of society into the journalism and cinema of 
to-day, and always visibly drawing its material from the 
religious painting and sculpture and music, architecture and 
pageantry and oratory, of the Middle Ages. 

The first chapter would begin with Plato. Plato’s ob- 
servations about poetry and the other arts are difficult for us 
to understand, not, as historians of thought generally assume, 
because ‘aesthetic was in its infancy’ and Plato’s thoughts 
about it inchoate and confused; still less, as others fancy, 
because Plato was a philistine with no interest in art; but 
because the issues with which he was dealing were not the 
familiar problems of academic art-philosophy which we 


expect them to be, but issues of a quite different kind, highly 
relevant to our own practical situation. Plato lived at a time 
when the religious art of the earlier Greeks, such as the 
Olympian sculptures and the Aeschylean drama, had de- 
cisively given way to the new amusement art of the Hellenistic 
age. He saw in this change not only the loss of a great artis- 
tic tradition and the coming of an artistic decadence, but also 
a danger to civilization as a whole. He grasped the distinction 
between magical art and amusement art, and attacked amuse- 
ment art with all the power of his logic and eloquence. 

Modern readers, prejudiced by the current nineteenth- 
century identification of art with amusement, have commonly 
misinterpreted Plato’s attack on amusement as an attack on 
art, have taken upon themselves to resent it in the name of 
sound aesthetic theory, and have praised Aristotle for a juster 
appreciation of the value of art. In fact, however, Plato and 
Aristotle do not differ so very much in their views on poetry, 
except at one point. Plato saw that amusement art arouses 
emotions which it does not direct to any outlet in practical 
life; and wrongly inferred that its excessive development 
would breed a society overcharged with purposeless emotions. 
Aristotle saw that this did not follow, because the emotions 
generated by amusement art are discharged by the amuse- 
ment itself. Plato’s error on this point led him to think that 
the evils of a world given over to amusement could be cured 
by controlling or abolishing amusements. But when the vor- 
tex has once established itself, that cannot be done; cause 
and effect are now interlocked in a vicious circle, which 
will mend itself wherever you break it; what began as the 
cause of the disease is now only a symptom, which it is 
useless to treat . 1 

The dangers to civilization foreseen by Plato’s prophetic 
thought were a long time maturing. Greco-Roman society 

1 It should be added that in both Plato and Aristotle, and especially in 
Plato, the genuine problems of aesthetic are not wholly absent from the 
discussion; they lurk in the background, and from time to time loom up and 
overshadow those of amusement art. 


was vigorous enough to go on paying the interest on the 
accumulating debt out of the energies of its everyday life for 
six or seven centuries. But from Plato onwards its life was a 
rearguard action against emotional bankruptcy. The critical 
moment was reached when Rome created an urban prole- 
tariat whose only function was to eat free bread and watch 
free shows. This meant the segregation of an entire class 
which had no work to do whatever; no positive function in 
society, whether economic or military or administrative or 
intellectual or religious; only the business of being supported 
and being amused. When that had been done, it was only 
a question of time until Plato’s nightmare 1 of a consumer’s 
society came true: the drones set up their own king, and the 
story of the hive came to an end. 

Once a class had been created whose only interest lay in 
amusement, it acted as an abscess which by degrees drew 
away all emotional energies from the affairs of real life. 
Nothing could arrest the spread of amusement; no one, 
though many tried, could regenerate it by infusing into it 
a new spirit of religious purpose or artistic austerity. The 
vortex revolved, through manifestations now wholly for- 
gotten except by a few curious scholars, until a new con- 
sciousness grew up for which practical life was so interesting 
that organized amusement was no longer needed. The 
consciousness of the old civilization, now bifurcated down 
to its very foundations, fell to pieces before the onslaught 
of this new unified consciousness, and theatre and amphi- 
theatre were deserted by a world that had become Christian. 
The Middle Ages had begun, and a new magi co-religious 
art was born : this time, an art serving those emotions 
which went to the invigorating and perpetuating of Christian 

The second chapter would begin with the fourteenth 

1 Republic, 573 a— b. Cf. Rostovtzeff, Social and Economic History of the 
Roman Empire, ch. ix-xi. I have worked out the consequences for one pro- 
vince of the Roman Empire in Oxford History of England, i (1937), ch. xii- 
xiii; cf. especially p. 207. 


century, when merchants and princes began to change the 
whole character of artistic work by diverting it from the 
Church’s use to their own personal service. It would show 
how, from a quite early stage, this new movement provoked 
violent hostility, such as that which drove Savonarola to burn 
Michelangelo’s picture; and how this hostility was drawn 
into the service of the Reformation until it became, unlike the 
so-called ‘puritanism’ of Plato, even more bitter against 
magical art than against amusement art. It would show how 
the tradition of this hostility entered into the main stream 
of modern civilization through its inheritance by noncon- 
formist bankers and manufacturers, the class which became 
dominant in the modern world; and how that event drove 
the artistic consciousness of the modern world, at the very 
moment when it was liberating itself from the shackles of 
amusement, into the position of something outcast and 

It would show how the new plutocracy, entrenched in 
their hereditary anti-artistic point of view, came with their 
new social and political domination to ape the ways of the 
gentry they had displaced ; how in the course of this process 
they made a truce with the arts on condition that the arts 
should accept once more the status of amusements; and how 
the new dominant classes persuaded themselves to reconcile 
their enjoyment of these amusements with a religious 
principle according to which there was no room in life for 
anything but work. The effect on both parties was disastrous. 
The artists, who had struggled from the seventeenth to the 
early nineteenth century to work out a new conception of 
art, detaching it from the ideas of amusement and magic 
alike, and thus liberating themselves from all service, 
whether of church or of patron, stifled these thoughts, spared 
themselves the labour of developing their new conception 
to the height of its potentialities, and put on again the servant’s 
liveries they had thrown aside. But they had changed for the 
worse, as always happens when revolted slaves go back to 
slavery. Their old masters had been, according to their 


lights, liberal and encouraging patrons, anxious for the best 
their servants could give them. The new masters wanted 
something far short of that. There was to be no danger of a 
new Restoration comedy or a Chaucerian or Shakespearian 
freedom of speech. Bowdler was king. And so the nine- 
teenth century went on its way, with a constant decline in 
artistic standards as compared with those of its early years, 
until by degrees (since slaves come to learn the desires their 
lords disown) respectable people began to think of art as 
not only an amusement*but a shady one. 

The masters, too, were the worse for it. Conscience 
allowed no place in their lives for amusement; and by 
accepting the arts as amusements they were touching the 
forbidden thing. The gospel of work ceased to hold them. 
They got into the habit of deserting their business on making 
a fortune, and ‘retiring’ into a state of pseudo-gentility, 
distinguished from real gentility not by their pronunciation 
or their table-manners, which were no odder than those of 
many a squire, but by the fact that they had no duties to the 
community, whether military or administrative or magical, 
such as occupied the real gentry. They had nothing to do 
but amuse themselves, and many of them did so by collecting 
pictures and so forth as the eighteenth-century nobility had 
set them example. The art-galleries of northern towns are 
there in evidence. But the poor, who are always the last 
guardians of a tradition, knew that the curse of God rested 
on idleness, and spoke of three generations from clogs to 

That was the first stage in the formation of the vortex. 
The second, far graver, was the corruption of the poor 
themselves. Until close on the end of the nineteenth century, 
the rustic population of England had an art of its own, 
rooted in the distant past but still alive with creative vigour : 
songs and dances, seasonal feasts and dramas and pageantry, 
all of magical significance and all organically connected with 
agricultural work. In a single generation this was wiped out 
of existence by the operation of two causes : the Education 


Act of 1870, which, as imposing on the countryman an 
education modelled on town-dwellers’ standards, was one 
stage in the slow destruction of English rural life by the 
dominant industrial and commercial class; and the ‘agricul- 
tural depression’, to give that vague and non-committal name 
to the long series of events, partly accidental and partly 
deliberate, which between 1870 and 1900 wrecked the 
prosperity of the English agricultural population. 1 

A similar process was going on among the poor of the 
towns. They too had a vital and ‘flourishing folk-art of 
the same magical type; they too were deprived of it by the 
organized forces of the law acting as the secular arm of the 
ruling industrialists’ puritanism. This is not the place for a 
narrative of the long persecution ; it is enough to say that by 
about 1 900 town and country alike had been properly purged 
of the magical art that had come to be known as folklore, ex- 
cept for a few harmless and pitiful survivals. The attack on 
magical art was over. The mind of the poor was a house 
empty, swept, and garnished. 

Then came amusement art. Football — mushroom amuse- 
ment growth of what had, till lately, been a ritual practised 
on religious feast-days in north-country towns — came first; 
then came the cinema and the wireless; and the poor, 
throughout the country, went amusement mad. But another 
event was happening at the same time. Increased production 
combined with the break-down of economic organization 
led to the appearance of an unemployed class, forced un- 
willingly into a parasitic condition, deprived of the magical 
arts in which their grandfathers took their pleasure fifty 
years ago, left functionless and aimless in the community, 
living only to accept fanern et circenses , the dole and the 

Historical parallels are blind guides. There is no cer- 
tainty that our civilization is tracing a path like that of the 
later Roman Empire. But the parallel, so far as it has 
yet developed, is alarmingly close. The disaster may be 

1 Cf. R. C. K. Ensor, Oxford History of England, vol. xiv (1936), ch. iv, ix. 


preventive, but the danger is real. Is there anything we 
can do? 

There are certain things we need not try to do. Plato’s 
remedy is no use. A dictator might try to close the cinemas, 
shut down the wireless except for the transmission of his 
own voice, confiscate the newspapers and magazines, and 
in every possible way block the supplies of amusement. 
But no such attempts would succeed, and no one clever 
enough to become dictator would be fool enough to make 
them. * 

The highbrow remedy is no use. The masses of cinema 
goers and magazine readers cannot be elevated by offering 
them, instead of these democratic amusements, the aristo- 
cratic amusements of a past age. This is called bringing art 
to the people, but that is clap-trap ; what is brought is still 
amusement, very cleverly designed by a Shakespeare or a 
Purcell to please an Elizabethan or Restoration audience, 
but now, for all its genius, far less amusing than Mickey 
Mouse or jazz except to people laboriously trained to 
enjoy it. 

The folk-song remedy is no use. English folk-art was a 
magical art, whose value to its possessors lay not in its 
aesthetic merits (critics who quarrel about these merits need 
not offer us their views) but in its traditional connexion with 
the works and days of their calendar. Its possessors have 
been robbed of it. The tradition has been broken. You 
cannot mend a tradition, and you would be foolish to give it 
back broken. Remorse is useless. There is nothing to be 
done except face the fact. 

The gunman’s remedy is no use. We need not buy 
revolvers and rush off to do something drastic. What we are 
concerned with is the threatened death of a civilization. 
That has nothing to do with my death or yours, or the deaths 
of any people we can shoot before they shoot us. It can be 
neither arrested nor hastened by violence. Civilizations die 
and are born not with waving of flags or the noise of machine- 
guns in the streets, but in the dark, in a stillness, when no 


one is aware of it. It never gets into the papers. Long 
afterwards a few people, looking back, begin to see that it 
has happened. 

Then let us get back to our business. We who write and 
read this book are persons interested in art. We live in a 
world where most of what goes by that name is amusement. 
Here is our garden. It seems to need cultivating. 


§ x. The New Problem 

We have finished at last with the technical theory of art, and 
with the various kinds of art falsely so called to which it 
correctly applies. We shall return to it in the future only so 
far as it forces itself upon our notice and threatens to impede 
the development of our subject. 

That subject is art proper. It is true that we have already 
been much concerned with this ; but only in a negative way. 
We have been looking at it so far as was necessary in order 
to exclude from it the various things which falsely claimed 
inclusion in it. We must now turn to the positive side of this 
same business, and ask what kinds of things they are to 
which the name rightly belongs. 

In doing this we are still dealing with what are called 
questions of fact, or what in the first chapter were called 
questions of usage, not with questions of theory. We shall 
not be trying to build up an argument which the reader is 
asked to examine and criticize, and accept if he finds no 
fatal flaw in it. We shall not be offering him information 
which he is asked to accept on the authority of witnesses. We 
shall be trying as best we can to remind ourselves of facts 
well known to us all : such facts as this, that on occasions of a 
certain kind we actually do use the word art or some kindred 
word to designate certain kinds of thing, and in the sense 
which we have now isolated as the proper sense of the word. 
Our business is to concentrate our attention on these usages 
until we can see them as consistent and systematic. This 
will be our work throughout this chapter and the next. The 
task of defining the usages thus systematized, and so con- 
structing a theory of art proper, will come later. 

An appeal to facts is scientifically fertile only if the in- 
quirer knows what precisely the questions are which he hopes 


that the appeal will answer. Our preliminary task, therefore, 
is to define the questions which the collapse of the technical 
theory has left confronting us. ‘That is easy,’ some one may 
suggest; ‘the technical theory having collapsed, we begin 
again at the beginning, with the same question once more 
before us : What is art ?’ 

This is a complete misunderstanding. To a person who 
knows his business as scientist, historian, philosopher, or 
any kind of inquirer, the refutation of a false theory con- 
stitutes a positive advance in his inquiry. It leaves him 
confronted, not by the same old question over again, but by 
a new question, more precise in its terms and therefore easier 
to answer. This new question is based on what he has 
learned from the theory he has refuted. If he has learned 
nothing, this proves either that he is too foolish (or too 
indolent) to learn, or that by an unfortunate error of judge- 
ment he has been spending time on a theory so idiotic that 
there is nothing to be learnt from it. Where the refuted 
theory, even though untrue as a whole, is not completely 
idiotic, and where the person who has refuted it is reasonably 
intelligent and reasonably painstaking, the upshot of his 
criticism can always be expressed in some such form as this: 
‘The theory is untenable as regards its general conclusions; 
but it has established certain points which must henceforth 
be taken into account.’ 

It is easy to take up this attitude in, for example, historical 
studies, where distinctions like that between the discovery 
of a document and the interpretation put upon it are fairly 
obvious, so that one historian criticizing the work of another 
may say that he was altogether wrong in his general view of 
a certain event, but the documents relating to it which he 
discovered are a permanent addition to knowledge. In the 
case of philosophical studies it is less easy, partly because 
there are powerful motives for not even trying to do it. 
Philosophers, especially those with an academic position, 
inherit a long tradition of arguing for the sake of arguing; 
even if they despair of reaching the truth, they think it a 


matter of pride to make other philosophers look foolish. A 
hankering for academic reputation turns them into a kind 
of dialectical bravoes, who go about picking quarrels with 
their fellow philosophers and running them through in 
public, not for the sake of advancing knowledge, but in 
order to decorate themselves with scalps. It is no wonder 
that the subject they represent has been brought into dis- 
credit with the general public and with students who have 
been trained to care less for victory than for truth. 

An erroneous philos®phical theory is based in the first 
instance not on ignorance but on knowledge. The person 
who constructs it begins by partially understanding the 
subject, and goes on to distort what he knows by twisting 
it into conformity with some preconceived idea. A theory 
which has commended itself to a great many intelligent 
people invariably expresses a high degree of insight into 
the subject dealt with, and the distortion to which this has 
been subjected is invariably thoroughgoing and systematic. 
It therefore expresses many truths, but it cannot be dissected 
into true statements and false statements; every statement 
it contains has been falsified; if the truth which underlies it 
is to be separated out from the falsehood, a special method of 
analysis must be used. This consists in isolating the pre- 
conceived idea which has acted as the distorting agent, 
reconstructing the formula of the distortion, and re-applying 
it so as to correct the distortion and thus find out what it was 
that the people who invented or accepted the theory were 
trying to say. In proportion as the theory has been more 
widely accepted, and by more intelligent persons, the likeli- 
hood is greater that the results of this analysis will be found 
useful as a starting-point for further inquiries. 

This method will now be applied to the technical theory 
of art. The formula for the distortion is known from our 
analysis of the notion of craft in Chapter II, § 1. Because 
the inventors of the theory were prejudiced in favour of that 
notion, they forced their own ideas about art into conformity 
with it. The central and primary characteristic of craft is the 


distinction it involves between means and end. If art is to 
be conceived as craft, it must likewise be divisible into means 
and end. We have seen that actually it is not so divisible; 
but we have now to ask why anybody ever thought it was. 
What is there in the case of art which these people mis- 
understood by assimilating it to the well-known distinction 
of means and end? If there is nothing, the technical theory 
of art was a gratuitous and baseless invention; those who 
have stated and accepted it have been and are nothing but 
a pack of fools ; and we have been wasting our time thinking 
about it. These are hypotheses I do not propose to adopt. 

(1) This, then, is the first point we have learnt from our 
criticism: that there is in art proper a distinction resembling 
that between means and end, but not identical with it. 

( 2 ) The element which the technical theory calls the end 
is defined by it as the arousing of emotion. The idea of 
arousing (i.e. of bringing into existence, by determinate 
means, something whose existence is conceived in advance 
as possible and desirable) belongs to the philosophy of craft, 
and is obviously borrowed thence. But the same is not true 
of emotion. This, then, is our second point. Art has some- 
thing to do with emotion; what it does with it has a certain 
resemblance to arousing it, but is not arousing it. 

(3) What the technical theory calls the means is defined 
by it as the making of an artifact called a work of art. The 
making of this artifact is described according to the terms 
of the philosophy of craft : i.e. as the transformation of a given 
raw material by imposing on it a form preconceived as a plan 
in the maker’s mind. To get the distortion out of this we 
must remove all these characteristics of craft, and thus we 
reach the third point. Art has something to do with making 
things, but these things are not material things, made by im- 
posing form on matter, and they are not made by skill. They 
are things of some other kind, and made in some other way. 

We now have three riddles to answer. For the present, 
no attempt will be made to answer the first: we shall treat 
it merely as a hint that the second and third should be treated 


separately. In this chapter, accordingly, we shall inquire 
into the relation between art and emotion ; in the next, the 
relation between art and making. 

§ 1. Expressing Emotion and Arousing Emotion 

Our first question is this. Since the artist proper has some- 
thing to do with emotion, and what he does with it is not to 
arouse it, what is it that he does ? It will be remembered that 
the kind of answer we expect to this question is an answer 
derived from what we all know and all habitually say; nothing 
original or recondite, but something entirely commonplace. 

Nothing could be more entirely commonplace than to say 
he expresses them. The idea is familiar to every artist, and 
to every one else who has any acquaintance with the arts. 
To state it is not to state a philosophical theory or definition 
of art; it is to state a fact or supposed fact about which, when 
we have sufficiently identified it, we shall have later to 
theorize philosophically. For the present it does not matter 
whether the fact that is alleged, when it is said that the artist 
expresses emotion, is really a fact or only supposed to be one. 
Whichever it is, we have to identify it, that is, to decide what 
it is that people are saying when they use the phrase. Later on, 
we shall have to see whether it will fit into a coherent theory. 

They are referring to a situation, real or supposed, of a 
definite kind. When a man is said to express emotion, what 
is being said about him comes to this. At first, he is con- 
scious of having an emotion, but not conscious of what this 
emotion is. All he is conscious of is a perturbation or excite- 
ment, which he feels going on within him, but of whose 
nature he is ignorant. While in this state, all he can say 
about his emotion is: ‘I feel ... I don’t know what I feel.’ 
From this helpless and oppressed condition he extricates 
himself by doing something which we call expressing him- 
self. This is an activity which has something to do with the 
thing we call language : he expresses himself by speaking. 
It has also something to do with consciousness : the emotion 
expressed is an emotion of whose nature the person who feels 

443« X 


it is no longer unconscious. It has also something to do with 
the way in which he feels the emotion. As unexpressed, he 
feels it in what we have called a helpless and oppressed way; 
as expressed, he feels it in a way from which this sense of 
oppression has vanished. His mind is somehow lightened 
and eased. 

This lightening of emotions which is somehow connected 
with the expression of them has a certain resemblance to the 
‘catharsis’ by which emotions are earthed through being 
discharged into a make-believe situation ; but the two things 
are not the same. Suppose the emotion is one of anger. If 
it is effectively earthed, for example by fancying oneself 
kicking some one down stairs, it is thereafter no longer 
present in the mind as anger at all : we have worked it off 
and are rid of it. If it is expressed, for example by putting 
it into hot and bitter words, it does not disappear from the 
mind ; we remain angry ; but instead of the sense of oppression 
which accompanies an emotion of anger not yet recognized as 
such, we have that sense of alleviation which comes when we 
are conscious of our own emotion as anger, instead of being 
conscious of it only as an unidentified perturbation. This is 
what we refer to when we say that it ‘does us good’ to express 
our emotions. 

The expression of an emotion by speech may be addressed 
to some one; but if so it is not done with the intention of 
arousing a like emotion in him. If there is any effect which 
we wish to produce in the hearer, it is only the effect which 
we call making him understand how we feel. But, as we have 
already seen, this is just the effect which expressing our 
emotions has on ourselves. It makes us, as well as the people 
to whom we talk, understand how we feel. A person arous- 
ing emotion sets out to affect his audience in a way in which 
he himself is not necessarily affected. He and his audience 
stand in quite different relations to the act, very much as 
physician and patient stand in quite different relations to- 
wards a drug administered by the one and taken by the other. 
A person expressing emotion, on the contrary, is treating 


himself and his audience in the same kind of way; he is 
making his emotions clear to his audience, and that is what 
he is doing to himself. 

It follows from this that the expression of emotion, simply 
as expression, is not addressed to any particular audience. 
It is addressed primarily to the speaker himself, and secon- 
darily to any one who can understand. Here again, the 
speaker’s attitude towards his audience is quite unlike that 
of a person desiring to arouse in his audience a certain 
emotion. If that is whaS he wishes to do, he must know the 
audience he is addressing. He must know what type of 
stimulus will produce the desired kind of reaction in people 
of that particular sort; and he must adapt his language to 
his audience in the sense of making sure that it contains 
stimuli appropriate to their peculiarities. If what he wishes 
to do is to express his emotions intelligibly, he has to express 
them in such a way as to be intelligible to himself; his audi- 
ence is then in the position of persons who overhear 1 him 
doing this. Thus the stimulus-and-reaction terminology has 
no applicability to the situation. 

The means-and-end, or technique, terminology too is 
inapplicable. Until a man has expressed his emotion, he does 
not yet know what emotion it is. The act of expressing it is 
therefore an exploration of his own emotions. He is trying 
to find out what these emotions are. There is certainly here 
a directed process: an effort, that is, directed upon a certain 
end; but the end is not something foreseen and preconceived, 
to which appropriate means can be thought out in the light 
of our knowledge of its special character. Expression is an 
activity of which there can be no technique. 

§ 3. Expression and Individualization 

Expressing an emotion is not the same thing as describing 
it. To say ‘I am angry’ is to describe one’s emotion, not to 

1 Further development of the ideas expressed in this paragraph will make 
it necessary .to qualify this word and assert a much more intimate relation 
between artist and audience; see pp. 311-36. 


express it. The words in which it is expressed need not 
contain any reference to anger as such at all. Indeed, so far as 
they simply and solely express it, they cannot contain any 
such reference. The curse of Ernulphus, as invoked by 
Dr. Slop on the unknown person who tied certain knots, 
is a classical and supreme expression of anger; but it does 
not contain a single word descriptive of the emotion it 

This is why, as literary critics well know, the use of epithets 
in poetry, or even in prose where expressiveness is aimed at,, 
is a danger. If you want to express the terror which some- 
thing causes, you must not give it an epithet like ‘dreadful’. 
For that describes the emotion instead of expressing it, and 
your language becomes frigid, that is inexpressive, at once. 
A genuine poet, in his moments of genuine poetry, never 
mentions by name the emotions he is expressing. 

Some people have thought that a poet who wishes to 
express a great variety of subtly differentiated emotions 
might be hampered by the lack of a vocabulary rich in words 
referring to the distinctions between them; and that psycho- 
logy, by working out such a vocabulary, might render a 
valuable service to poetry. This is the opposite of the truth. 
The poet needs no such words at all ; the existence or non- 
existence of a scientific terminology describing the emotions 
he wishes to express is to him a matter of perfect indifference. 
If such a terminology, where it exists, is allowed to affect his 
own use of language, it affects it for the worse. 

The reason why description, so far from helping expres- 
sion, actually damages it, is that description generalizes. To 
describe a thing is to call it a thing of such and such a kind: 
to bring it under a conception, to classify it. Expression, 
on the contrary, individualizes. The anger which I feel here 
and now, with a certain person, for a certain cause, is no doubt 
an instance of anger, and in describing it as anger one is 
telling truth about it; but it is much more than mere anger: 
it is a peculiar anger, not quite like any anger that I ever 
felt before, and probably not quite like any anger I shall ever 


feel again. To become fully conscious of it means becoming 
conscious of it not merely as an instance of anger, but as this 
quite peculiar anger. Expressing it, we saw, has something 
to do with becoming conscious of it; therefore, if being fully 
conscious of it means being conscious of all its peculiarities, 
fully expressing it means expressing all its peculiarities. The 
poet, therefore, in proportion as he understands his business, 
gets as far away as possible from merely labelling his 
emotions as instances of this or that general kind, and takes 
enormous pains to individualize them by expressing them 
in terms which reveal their difference from any other 
emotion of the same sort. 

This is a point in which art proper, as the expression of 
emotion, differs sharply and obviously from any craft whose 
aim it is to arouse emotion. The end which a craft sets out 
to realize is always conceived in general terms, never 
individualized. However accurately defined it may be, it is 
always defined as the production of a thing having charac- 
teristics that could be shared by other things. A joiner, 
making a table out of these pieces of wood and no others, 
makes it to measurements and specifications which, even if 
actually shared by no other table, might in principle be 
shared by other tables. A physician treating a patient for a 
certain complaint is trying to produce in him a condition 
which might be, and probably has been, often produced in 
others, namely, the condition of recovering from that com- 
plaint. So an ‘artist’ setting out to produce a certain emotion 
in his audience is setting out to produce not an individual 
emotion, but an emotion of a certain kind. It follows that 
the means appropriate to its production will be not individual 
means but means of a certain kind: that is to say, means 
which are always in principle replaceable by other similar 
means. As every good craftsman insists, there is always a 
‘right way’ of performing any operation. A ‘way’ of acting 
is a general pattern to which various individual actions may 
conform. In order that the ‘work of art’ should produce its 
intended psychological effect, therefore, whether this effect 


be magical or merely amusing, what is necessary is that it 
should satisfy certain conditions, possess certain character- 
istics : in other words be, not this work and no other, but a 
work of this kind and of no other. 

This explains the meaning of the generalization which 
Aristotle and others have ascribed to art. We have already 
seen that Aristotle’s Poetics is concerned not with art proper 
but with representative art, and representative art of one 
definite kind. He is not analysing the religious drama of 
a hundred years before, he is analysing the amusement 
literature of the fourth century, and giving rules for its 
composition. The end being not individual but general (the 
production of an emotion of a certain kind) the means too 
are general (the portrayal, not of this individual act, but of an 
act of this sort; not, as he himself puts it, what Alcibiades 
did, but what anybody of a certain kind would do). Sir 
Joshua Reynolds’s idea of generalization is in principle the 
same; he expounds it in connexion with what he calls ‘the 
grand style’, which means a style intended to produce 
emotions of a certain type. He is quite right; if you want to 
produce a typical case of a certain emotion, the way to do it 
is to put before your audience a representation of the typical 
features belonging to the kind of thing that produces it: 
make your kings very royal, your soldiers very soldierly, 
your women very feminine, your cottages very cottagesque, 
your oak-trees very oakish, and so on. 

Art proper, as expression of emotion, has nothing to do with 
all this. The artist proper is a person who, grappling with 
the problem of expressing a certain emotion, says, ‘I want 
to get this clear.’ It is no use to him to get something else 
clear, however like it this other thing may be. Nothing will 
serve as a substitute. He does not want a thing of a certain 
kind, he wants a certain thing. This is why the kind of person 
who takes his literature as psychology, saying ‘How ad- 
mirably this writer depicts the feelings of women, or bus- 
drivers, or homosexuals . . .’, necessarily misunderstands 
every real work of art with which he comes into contact, 


and takes for good art, with infallible precision, what is 
not art at all. 

§ 4. Selection and Aesthetic Emotion 

It has sometimes been asked whether emotions can be 
divided into those suitable for expression by artists and those 
unsuitable. If by art one means art proper, and identifies 
this with expression, the only possible answer is that there 
can be no such distinction. Whatever is expressible is 
expressible. There may be ulterior motives in special cases 
which make it desirable to express some emotions and not 
others; but only if by ‘express’ one means express publicly, 
that is, allow people to overhear one expressing oneself. 
This is because one cannot possibly decide that a certain 
emotion is one which for some reason it would be undesirable 
to express thus publicly, unless one first becomes conscious 
of it; and doing this, as we saw, is somehow bound up with 
expressing it. If art means the expression of emotion, the 
artist as such must be absolutely candid ; his speech must be 
absolutely free. This is not a precept, it is a statement. It 
does not mean that the artist ought to be candid, it means that 
he is an artist only in so far as he is candid. Any kind of 
selection, any decision to express this emotion and not that, 
is inartistic not in the sense that it damages the perfect 
sincerity which distinguishes good art from bad, but in the 
sense that it represents a further process of a non-artistic 
kind, carried out when the work of expression proper is 
already complete. For until that work is complete one 
does not know what emotions one feels; and is therefore 
not in a position to pick and choose, and give one of them 
preferential treatment. 

From these considerations a certain corollary follows about 
the division of art into distinct arts. Two such divisions are 
current: one according to the medium in which the artist 
works, into painting, poetry, music, and the like; the other 
according to the kind of emotion he expresses, into tragic, 
comic, and so forth. We are concerned with the second. 


If the difference between tragedy and comedy is a difference 
between the emotions they express, it is not a difference that 
can be present to the artist’s mind when he is beginning his 
work; if it were, he would know what emotion he was going 
to express before he had expressed it. No artist, therefore, 
so far as he is an artist proper, can set out to write a comedy, 
a tragedy, an elegy, or the like. So far as he is an artist 
proper, he is just as likely to write any one of these as any 
other; which is the truth that Socrates was heard expounding 
towards the dawn, among the sleeping figures in Agathon’s 
dining-room . 1 These distinctions, therefore, have only a 
very limited value. They can be properly used in two ways, 
(i) When a work of art is complete, it can be labelled ex post 
facto as tragic, comic, or the like, according to the character 
of the emotions chiefly expressed in it. But understood in 
that sense the distinction is of no real importance. (2) If we 
are talking about representational art, the case is very 
different. Here the so-called artist knows in advance what 
kind of emotion he wishes to excite, and will construct works 
of different kinds according to the different kinds of effect 
they are to produce. In the case of representational art, 
therefore, distinctions of this kind are not only admissible 
as an ex post facto classification of things to which in their 
origin it is alien ; they are present from the beginning as a 
determining factor in the so-called artist’s plan of work. 

The same considerations provide an answer to the ques- 
tion whether there is such a thing as a specific ‘aesthetic 
emotion’. If it is said that there is such an emotion inde- 
pendently of its expression in art, and that the business of 

* Plato, Symposium, 223 d. But if Aristodemus heard him correctly, 
Socrates was saying the right thing for the wrong reason. He is reported as 
arguing, not that a tragic writer as such is also a comic one, but that 6 •rfxvij 
Tpayco2oTrai6$ is also a comic writer. Emphasis on the word t^xvt^ is obviously 
implied; and this, with a reference to the doctrine {Republic, 333 e — 334 a) 
that craft is what Aristotle was to call a potentiality of opposites, i.e. enables 
its possessor to do not one kind of thing only, but that kind and the opposite 
kind too, shows that what Socrates was doing was to assume the technical 
theory of art and draw from it the above conclusion. 


artists is to express it, we must answer that such a view is 
nonsense. It implies, first, that artists have emotions of 
various kinds, among which is this peculiar aesthetic emo- 
tion; secondly, that they select this aesthetic emotion for 
expression. If the first proposition were true, the second 
would have to be false. If artists only find out what their 
emotions are in the course of finding out how to express them, 
they cannot begin the work of expression by deciding what 
emotion to express. 

In a different sense, ^however, it is true that there is a 
specific aesthetic emotion. As we have seen, an unexpressed 
emotion is accompanied by a feeling of oppression; when 
it is expressed and thus comes into consciousness the same 
emotion is accompanied by a new feeling of alleviation or 
easement, the sense that this oppression is removed. It 
resembles the feeling of relief that comes when a burdensome 
intellectual or moral problem has been solved. We may call 
it, if we like, the specific feeling of having successfully 
expressed ourselves; and there is no reason why it should not 
be called a specific aesthetic emotion. But it is not a specific 
kind of emotion pre-existing to the expression of it, and 
having the peculiarity that when it comes to be expressed it 
is expressed artistically. It is an emotional colouring which 
attends the expression of any emotion whatever. 

§ 5. The Artist and the Ordinary Man 

I have been speaking of ‘the artist’, in the present chap- 
ter, as if artists were persons of a special kind, differing some- 
how either in mental endowment or at least in the way they 
use their endowment from the ordinary persons who make 
up their audience. But this segregation of artists from or- 
dinary human beings belongs to the conception of art as 
craft; it cannot be reconciled with the conception of art as 
expression. If art were a kind of craft, it would follow as a 
matter of course. Any craft is a specialized form of skill, 
and those who possess it are thereby marked out from the 
rest of mankind. If art is the skill to amuse people, or in 


general to arouse emotions in them, the amusers and the 
amused form two different classes, differing in their respec- 
tively active and passive relation to the craft of exciting 
determinate emotions; and this difference will be due, 
according to whether the artist is ‘born’ or ‘made’, either to 
a specific mental endowment in the artist, which in theories 
of this type has gone by the name of ‘genius’, or to a specific 

If art is not a kind of craft, but the expression of emotion, 
this distinction of kind between artist and audience disap- 
pears. For the artist has an audience only in so far as people 
hear him expressing himself, and understand what they 
hear him saying. Now, if one person says something by way 
of expressing what is in his mind, and another hears and 
understands him, the hearer who understands him has that 
same thing in his mind. The question whether he would 
have had it if the first had not spoken need not here be 
raised; however it is answered, what has just been said is 
equally true. If some one says ‘Twice two is four’ in the 
hearing of some one incapable of carrying out the simplest 
arithmetical operation, he will be understood by himself, 
but not by his hearer. The hearer can understand only if he 
can add two and two in his own mind. Whether he could 
do it before he heard the speaker say those words makes no 
difference. What is here said of expressing thoughts is 
equally true of expressing emotions. If a poet expresses, for 
example, a certain kind of fear, the only hearers who can 
understand him are those who are capable of experiencing 
that kind of fear themselves. Hence, when some one reads 
and understands a poem, he is not merely understanding the 
poet’s expression of his, the poet’s, emotions, he is expressing 
emotions of his own in the poet’s words, which have thus 
become his own words. As Coleridge put it, we know a man 
for a poet by the fact that he makes us poets. We know that 
he is expressing his emotions by the fact that he is enabling 
us to express ours. 

Thus, if art is the activity of expressing emotions, the 


reader is an artist as well as the writer. There is no distinction 
of kind between artist and audience. This does not mean that 
there is no distinction at all. When Pope wrote that the 
poet’s business was to say ‘what all have felt but none so well 
express’d’, we may interpret his words as meaning (whether 
or no Pope himself consciously meant this when he wrote 
them) that the poet’s difference from his audience lies in the 
fact that, though both do exactly the same thing, namely 
express this particular emotion in these particular words, 
the poet is a man who can solve for himself the problem 
of expressing it, whereas the audience can express it only 
when the poet has shown them how. The poet is not singular 
either in his having that emotion or in his power of expressing 
it; he is singular in his ability to take the initiative in ex- 
pressing what all feel, and all can express. 

§6. The Curse of the Ivory Tower 

I have already had occasion to criticize the view that artists 
can or should form a special order or caste, marked off by 
special genius or special training from the rest of the 
community. That view, we have seen, was a by-product of 
the technical theory of art. This criticism can now be rein- 
forced by pointing out that a segregation of this kind is not 
only unnecessary but fatal to the artist’s real function. If 
artists are really to express ‘what all have felt’, they must 
share the emotions of all. Their experiences, the general 
attitude they express towards life, must be of the same 
kind as that of the persons among whom they hope to find 
an audience. If they form themselves into a special clique, 
the emotions they express will be the emotions of that clique; 
and the consequence will be that their work becomes 
intelligible only to their fellow artists. This is in fact what 
happened to a great extent during the nineteenth century, 
when the segregation of artists from the rest of mankind 
reached its culmination. 

If art had really been a craft, like medicine or warfare, 
the effect of this segregation would have been all to the good, 


for a craft only becomes more efficient if it organizes itself 
into the shape of a community devoted to serving the interests 
of the public in a specialized way, and planning its whole 
life with an eye to the conditions of this service. Because it 
is not a craft, but the expression of emotions, the effect was 
the opposite of this. A situation arose in which novelists, 
for example, found themselves hardly at their ease except 
in writing novels about novelists, which appealed to nobody 
except other novelists. This vicious circle was most con- 
spicuous in certain continental writers like Anatole France 
or D’Annunzio, whose subject-matter often seemed to be 
limited by the limits of the segregated clique of ‘intellectuals’. 
The corporate life of the artistic community became a kind 
of ivory tower whose prisoners could think and talk of 
nothing except themselves, and had only one another for 

Transplanted into the more individualistic atmosphere of 
England, the result was different. Instead of a single 
(though no doubt subdivided) clique of artists, all inhabiting 
the same ivory tower, the tendency was for each artist to 
construct an ivory tower of his own : to live, that is to say, 
in a world of his own devising, cut off not only from the 
ordinary world of common people but even from the corre- 
sponding worlds of other artists. Thus Burne-Jones lived 
in a world whose contents were ungraciously defined by a 
journalist as ‘green light and gawky girls’; Leighton in a 
world of sham Hellenism; and it was the call of practical life 
that rescued Yeats from the sham world of his youthful 
Celtic twilight, forced him into the clear air of real Celtic 
life, and made him a great poet. 

In these ivory towers art languished. The reason is not 
hard to understand. A man might easily have been born and 
bred within the confines of a society as narrow and special- 
ized as any nineteenth-century artistic coterie, thinking its 
thoughts and feeling its emotions because his experience 
contained no others. Such a man, in so far as he expressed 
these emotions, would be genuinely expressing his own 

1 21 

experience. The narrowness or wideness of the experience 
which an artist expresses has nothing to do with the merits 
of his art. A Jane Austen, born and bred in an atmosphere 
of village gossip, can make great art out of the emotions that 
atmosphere generates. But a person who shuts himself up 
in the limits of a narrow coterie has an experience which 
includes the emotions of the larger world in which he was 
born and bred, as well as those of the little society he has 
chosen to join. If he decides to express only the emotions 
that pass current within the limits of that little society, he is 
selecting certain of his emotions for expression. The reason 
why this inevitably produces bad art is that, as we have 
already seen, it can only be done when the person selecting 
already knows what his emotions are; that is, has already 
expressed them. His real work as an artist is a work which, 
as a member of his artistic coterie, he repudiates. Thus the 
literature of the ivory tower is a literature whose only possible 
value is an amusement value by which persons imprisoned 
within that tower, whether by their misfortune or their 
fault, help themselves and each other to pass their time with- 
out dying of boredom or of home-sickness for the world they 
have left behind; together with a magical value by which 
they persuade themselves and each other that imprisonment 
in such a place and in such company is a high privilege. 
Artistic value it has none. 

§ 7. Expressing Emotion and Betraying Emotion 

Finally, the expressing of emotion must not be confused 
with what may be called the betraying of it, that is, exhibiting 
symptoms of it. When it is said that the artist in the proper 
sense of that word is a person who expresses his emotions, 
this does not mean that if he is afraid he turns pale and 
stammers; if he is angry he turns red and bellows; and so 
forth. These things are no doubt called expressions; but 
just as we distinguish proper and improper senses of the 
word ‘art’, so we must distinguish proper and improper senses 
of the word ‘expression’, and in the context of a discussion 


about art this sense of expression is an improper sense. The 
characteristic mark of expression proper is lucidity or 
intelligibility; a person who expresses something thereby 
becomes conscious of what it is that he is expressing, and 
enables others to become conscious of it in himself and in 
them. Turning pale and stammering is a natural accom- 
paniment of fear, but a person who in addition to being 
afraid also turns pale and stammers does not thereby become 
conscious of the precise quality of his emotion. About that 
he is as much in the dark as he would be if (were that possible) 
he could feel fear without also exhibiting these symptoms 
of it. . 

Confusion between these two senses of the word ‘expres- 
sion’ may easily lead to false critical estimates, and so to 
false aesthetic theory. It is sometimes thought a merit in an 
actress that when she is acting a pathetic scene she can work 
herself up to such an extent as to weep real tears. There may 
be some ground for that opinion if acting is not an art but a 
craft, and if the actress’s object in that scene is to produce 
grief in her audience; and even then the conclusion would 
follow only if it were true that grief cannot be produced in 
the audience unless symptoms of grief are exhibited by the 
performer. And no doubt this is how most people think 
of the actor’s work. But if his business is not amusement but 
art, the object at which he is aiming is not to produce a 
preconceived emotional effect on his audience but by means 
of a system of expressions, or language, composed partly of 
speech and partly of gesture, to explore his own emotions: 
to discover emotions in himself of which he was unaware, 
and, by permitting the audience to witness the discovery, 
enable them to make a similar discovery about themselves. 
In that case it is not her ability to weep real tears that would 
mark out a good actress; it is her ability to make it clear to 
herself and her audience what the tears are about. 

This applies to every kind of art. The artist never rants. 
A person who writes or paints or the like in order to blow 
off steam, using the traditional materials of art as means for 


exhibiting the symptoms of emotion, may deserve praise 
as an exhibitionist, but loses for the moment all claim to the 
title of artist. Exhibitionists have their uses ; they may serve 
as an amusement, or they may be doing magic. The second 
category will contain, for example, those young men who, 
learning in the torment of their own bodies and minds what 
war is like, have stammered their indignation in verses, and 
published them in the hope of infecting others and causing 
them to abolish it. But these verses have nothing to do with 
poetry. , 

Thomas Hardy, at the end of a fine and tragic novel in 
which he has magnificently expressed his sorrow and indigna- 
tion for the suffering inflicted by callous sentimentalism on 
trusting innocence, spoils everything by a last paragraph 
fastening his accusation upon ‘the president of the immortals’. 
The note rings false, not because it is blasphemous (it offends 
no piety worthy of the name), but because it is rant. The 
case against God, so far as it exists, is complete already. The 
concluding paragraph adds nothing to it. All it does is to 
spoil the effect of the indictment by betraying a symptom 
of the emotion which the whole book has already expressed; 
as if a prosecuting counsel, at the end of his speech, spat in 
the prisoner’s face. 

The same fault is especially common in Beethoven. He 
was confirmed in it, no doubt, by his deafness; but the cause 
of it was not his deafness but a temperamental inclination 
to rant. It shows itself in the way his music screams and 
mutters instead of speaking, as in the soprano part of the 
Mass in D, or the layout of the opening page in the Hammer- 
klavier Sonata. He must have known his failing and tried to 
overcome it, or he would never have spent so many of his 
ripest years among string quartets, where screaming and 
muttering are almost, one might say, physically impossible. 
Yet even there, the old Adam struts out in certain passages 
of the Grosse Fuge. 

It does not, of course, follow that a dramatic writer may 
not rant in character. The tremendous rant at the end of 


The Ascent of F6, like the Shakespearian 1 ranting on which it 
is modelled, is done with tongue in cheek. It is not the 
author who is ranting, but the unbalanced character he 
depicts; the emotion the author is expressing is the emotion 
with which he contemplates that character; or rather, the 
emotion he has towards that secret and disowned part of 
himself for which the character stands. 

1 Shakespeare’s characters rant (i) when they are characters in which he 
takes no interest at all, but which he uses simply as pegs on which to hang 
what the public wants, like Henry V; (2) when they are meant to be despi- 
cable, like Pistol; or (3) when they have lost their heads, like Hamlet in the 


§ 1. The Problem Defined 

The next question in the programme laid down at the begin- 
ning of the preceding chapter was put in this way : What is a 
work of art, granted that there is something in art proper (not 
only in art falsely so called) to which that name is applied, 
and that, since art is not craft, this thing is not an arti- 
fact ? It is something made by the artist, but not made by 
transforming a given raw material, nor by carrying out a 
preconceived plan, nor by way of realizing the means to 
a preconceived end. What is this kind of making? 

Here are two questions which, however closely they are 
connected, we shall do well to consider separately. We had 
better begin with the artist, and put the second question first. 
I shall therefore begin by asking: What is the nature of 
this making which is not technical making, or, if we want 
a one-word name for it, not fabrication ? It is important not 
to misunderstand the question. When we asked what 
expression was, in the preceding chapter, it was pointed out 
that the writer was not trying to construct an argument in- 
tended to convince the reader, nor to offer him information, 
but to remind him of what (if he is a person whose experience 
of the subject-matter has been sufficient to qualify him for 
reading books of this kind) he knows already. So here. We 
are not asking for theories but for facts. And the facts for 
which we are asking are not recondite facts. They are facts 
well known to the reader. The order of facts to which they 
belong may be indicated by saying that they are the ways in 
which all of us who are concerned with art habitually think 
about it, and the ways in which we habitually express our 
thoughts in ordinary speech. . 

By way of making this clearer, I will indicate the kind of 
way in which our question cannot be answered. A great 

4436 K 


many people who have put to themselves the question ‘What 
is this making, characteristic of the artist, which is not a 
fabrication?’ have sought an answer in some such way as 
the following: ‘This non-technical making is plainly not an 
accidental making, for works of art could not be produced 
by accident . 1 Something must be in control. But if this is 
not the artist’s skill, it cannot be his reason or will or con- 
sciousness. It must therefore be something else; either some 
controlling force outside the artist, in which case we may 
call it inspiration, or something inside him but other than 
his will and so forth. This must be either his body, in which 
case the production of a work of art is at bottom a physio- 
logical activity, or else it is something mental but uncon- 
scious, in which case the productive force is the artist’s 
unconscious mind.’ 

Many imposing theories of art have been built on these 
foundations. The first alternative, that the artist’s activity 
is controlled by some divine or at least spiritual being that 
uses him as its mouthpiece, is out of fashion to-day, but 
that is no reason why we should refuse it a hearing. It does 
at least fit the facts better than most of the theories of art 
nowadays current. The second alternative, that the artist’s 
work is controlled by forces which, though part of him- 
self and specifically part of his mind, are not voluntary 
and not conscious, but work in some mental cellar unseen 
and unbidden by the dwellers in the house above, is extremely 

1 I am talking of quite sensible people. There are others; some of them 
have denied this proposition, pointing out that if a monkey played with a 
typewriter for long enough, rattling the keys at random, there is a calculable 
probability that within a certain time he would produce, purely by accident, 
the complete text of Shakespeare. Any reader who has nothing to do can 
amuse himself by calculating how long it would take for the probability to 
be worth betting on. But the interest of the suggestion lies in the revelation 
of the mental state of a person who can identify the ‘works’ of Shakespeare 
with the series of letters printed on the pages of a book bearing that phrase 
as its title; and thinks, if he can be said to think at all, that an archaeologist 
of 10,000 years hence, recovering a complete text of Shakespeare from the 
sands of Egypt but unable to read a single word of English, would possess 
Shakespeare’s dramatic and poetic works. 


popular; not among artists, but among psychologists and 
their numerous disciples, who handle the theory with a great 
deal of confidence and seem to believe that by its means the 
riddle of art has at last been solved . 1 The third alternative 
was popular with the physiological psychologists of the last 
century, and Grant Allen still remains its best exponent. 

It would be waste of time to criticize these theories. The 
question about them is not whether they are good or bad, 
considered as examples of theorizing; but whether the 
problem which they are rneant to solve is one that calls for 
theorizing in order to solve it. A person who cannot find 
his spectacles on the table may invent any number of theories 
to account for their absence. They may have been spirited 
away by a benevolent deity, to prevent him from over- 
working, or by a malicious demon, to interfere with his 
studies, or by a neighbouring mahatma, to convince him 
that such things can be done. He may have unconsciously 
made away with them himself, because they unconsciously 
remind him of his oculist, who unconsciously reminds him 
of his father, whom he unconsciously hates. Or he may 
have pushed them off the table while moving a book. But 
these theories, however ingenious and sublime, are pre- 
mature if the spectacles should happen to be on his nose. 

Theories professing to explain how works of art are con- 
structed by means of hypotheses like these are based on 
recollecting that the spectacles are not on the table, and 
overlooking the fact that they are on the nose. Those who 
put them forward have not troubled to ask themselves 
whether we are in point of fact familiar with a kind of 
activity productive of results and under the agent’s voluntary 

1 Mr. Robert Graves ( Poetic Unreason , 1925) is almost the only practising 
man of letters or artist in this country who has come forward to back up the 
psychologists. Generally speaking, the judgement of literary men on the 
qualifications of the people who advocate this theory is sufficiently represented 
by Dr. I. A. Richards: ‘To judge by the published work of Freud upon 
Leonardo da Vinci or of Jung upon Goethe (e.g. The Psychology of the 
Unconscious , p. 305) psycho-analysts tend to be peculiarly inept as critics’ 
( Principles of Literary Criticism , ed. 5, 1934, pp. 29-30). 


control, which has none of the special characteristics of craft. 
If they had asked the question, they must have answered it 
in the affirmative. We are perfectly familiar with activities 
of this kind; and our ordinary name for them is creation. 

§ 2. Making and Creating 

Before we ask what in general are the occasions on which 
we use this word, we must forestall a too probable objection 
to the word itself. Readers suffering from theophobia will 
certainly by now have taken offence. Knowing as they do that 
theologians use it for describing the relation of God to the 
world, victims of this disease smell incense whenever they 
hear it spoken, and think it a point of honour that it shall 
never sully their lips or ears. They will by now have on the 
tips of their tongues all the familiar protests against an 
aesthetic mysticism that raises the function of art to the level 
of something divine and identifies the artist with God. 
Perhaps some day, with an eye on the Athanasian Creed, 
they will pluck up courage to excommunicate an arithmetician 
who uses the word three. Meanwhile, readers willing to 
understand words instead of shying at them will recollect 
that the word ‘create’ is daily used in contexts that offer no 
valid ground for a fit of odium theologicum. If a witness in 
court says that a drunken man was creating a noise, or that a 
dance club has created a nuisance, if an historian says that 
somebody or other created the English navy or the Fascist 
state, if a publicist says that secret diplomacy creates inter- 
national distrust, or the chairman of a company says that 
increased attention to advertisement will create an increased 
demand for its produce, no one expects a little man at the 
back of the room to jump up and threaten to leave unless 
the word is withdrawn. If he did, the stewards would throw 
him out for creating a disturbance. 

To create something means to make it non-technically, 
but yet consciously and voluntarily. Originally, creare means 
to generate, or make offspring, for which we still use its 
compound ‘procreate,’ and the Spaniards have criatura , for 


a child. The act of procreation is a voluntary act, and 
those who do it are responsible for what they are doing; 
but it is not done by any specialized form of skill. It 
need not be done (as it may be in the case of a royal 
marriage) as a means to any preconceived end. It need 
not be done (as it was by Mr. Shandy senior) according 
to any preconceived plan. It cannot be done (whatever 
Aristotle may say) by imposing a new form on any pre- 
existing matter. It is in this sense that we speak of creating 
a disturbance or a demand or a political system. The person 
who makes these things is acting voluntarily; he is acting 
responsibly; but he need not be acting in order to achieve 
any ulterior end; he need not be following a preconceived 
plan; and he is certainly not transforming anything that 
can properly be called a raw material. It is in the same sense 
that Christians asserted, and neo-Platonists denied, that God 
created the world. 

This being the established meaning of the word, it should 
be clear that when we speak of an artist as making a poem, 
or a play, or a painting, or a piece of music, the kind of mak- 
ing to which we refer is the kind we call creating. For, as we 
already know, these things, in so far as they are works of art 
proper, are not made as means to an end ; they are not made 
according to any preconceived plan; and they are not made 
by imposing a new form upon a given matter. Yet they are 
made deliberately and responsibly, by people who know what 
they are doing, even though they do not know in advance 
what is going to come of it. 

The creation which theologians ascribe to God is peculiar 
in one way and only one. The peculiarity of the act by 
which God is said to create the world is sometimes supposed 
to lie in this, that God is said to create the world ‘out of 
nothing’, that is to say, without there being previously any 
matter upon which he imposes a new form. But that is a 
confusion of thought. In that sense, all creation is creation 
out of nothing. The peculiarity which is really ascribed 
to God is that in the case of his act there lacks not only a 


prerequisite in the shape of a matter to be transformed, but 
any prerequisite of any kind whatsoever. This would not 
apply to the creation of a child, or a nuisance, or a work of 
art. In order that a child should be created, there must be a 
whole world of organic and inorganic matter, not because 
the parents fabricate the child out of this matter, but because 
a child can come into existence, as indeed its parents can exist, 
only in such a world. In order that a nuisance should be 
created, there must be persons capable of being annoyed, 
and the person who creates the nuisance must already be 
acting in a manner which, if modified this way or that, would 
annoy them. In order that a work of art should be created, 
the prospective artist (as we saw in the preceding chapter) 
must have in him certain unexpressed emotions, and must 
also have the wherewithal to express them. In these cases, 
where creation is done by finite beings, it is obvious that 
these beings, because finite, must first be in circumstances 
that enable them to create. Because God is conceived as an 
infinite being, the creation ascribed to him is conceived as 
requiring no such conditions. 

Hence, when I speak of the artist’s relation to his works 
of art as that of a creator, I am not giving any excuse to 
unintelligent persons who think, whether in praise or dis- 
praise of my notions, that I am raising the function of art 
to the level of something divine or making the artist into 
a kind of God. 

§ 3. Creation and Imagination 

We must proceed to a further distinction. All the things 
taken above as examples of things created are what we 
ordinarily call real things. A work of art need not be what 
we should call a real thing. It may be what we call an 
imaginary thing. A disturbance, or a nuisance, or a navy, 
or the like, is not created at all until it is created as a thing 
having its place in the real world. But a work of art may be 
completely created when it has been created as a thing whose 
only place is in the artist’s mind. 


Here, I am afraid, it is the metaphysician who will take 
offence. He will remind me that the distinction between real 
things and things that exist only in our minds is one to which 
he and his fellows have given a great deal of attention. They 
have thought about it so long and so intently that it has lost 
all meaning. Some of them have decided that the things 
we call real are only in our minds ; others that the things we 
describe as being in our minds are thereby implied to be just 
as real as anything else. These two sects, it appears, are 
engaged in a truceless war, and any one who butts in by 
using the words about which they are fighting will be set 
upon by both sides and torn to pieces. 

I do not hope to placate these gentlemen. I can only cheer 
myself up by reflecting that even if I go on with what I was 
saying they cannot eat me. If an engineer has decided how 
to build a bridge, but has not made any drawings or speci- 
fications for it on paper, and has not discussed his plan with 
any one or taken any steps towards carrying it out, we are 
in the habit of saying that the bridge exists only in his mind, 
or (as we also say) in his head. When the bridge is built, we 
say that it exists not only in his head but in the real world. 
A bridge which ‘exists only in the engineer’s head’ we also 
call an imaginary bridge ; one which ‘exists in the real world’ 
we call a real bridge. 

This may be a silly way of speaking; or it may be an un- 
kind way of speaking, because of the agony it gives to meta- 
physicians; but it is a way in which ordinary people do speak, 
and ordinary people who speak in that way know quite well 
what kind of things they are referring to. The metaphysi- 
cians are right in thinking that difficult problems arise from 
talking in that way; and I shall spend the greater part of 
Book II in discussing these problems. Meanwhile, I shall 
go on ‘speaking with the vulgar’; if metaphysicians do not 
like it they need not read it. 

The same distinction applies to such things as music. If a 
man has made up a tune but has not written it down or sung 
it or played it or done anything which could make it public 


property, we say that the tune exists only in his mind, or 
only in his head, or is an imaginary tune. If he sings or plays 
it, thus making a series of audible noises, we call this series 
of noises a real tune as distinct from an imaginary one. 

When we speak of making an artifact we mean making 
a real artifact. If an engineer said that he had made a bridge, 
and when questioned turned out to mean that he had only 
made it in his head, we should think him a liar or a fool. We 
should say that he had not made a bridge at all, but only 
a plan for one. If he said he had made a plan for a bridge 
and it turned out that he had put nothing on paper, we should 
not necessarily think he had deceived us. A plan is a kind 
of thing that can only exist in a person’s mind. As a rule, an 
engineer making a plan in his mind is at the same time mak- 
ing notes and sketches on paper; but the plan does not 
consist of what we call the ‘plans’, that is, the pieces of paper 
with these notes and sketches on them. Even if he has put 
complete specifications and working drawings on paper, the 
paper with these specifications and drawings on it is not 
the plan ; it only serves to tell people (including himself, for 
memory is fallible) what the plan is. If the specifications 
and drawings are published, for example in a treatise on civil 
engineering, any one who reads the treatise intelligently will 
get the plan of that bridge into his head. The plan is there- 
fore public property, although by calling it public we mean 
only that it can get into the heads of many people; as 
many as read intelligently the book in which the specifica- 
tions and drawings are published. 

In the case of the bridge there is a further stage. The 
plan may be ‘executed’ or carried out ; that is to say, the bridge 
may be built. When that is done, the plan is said to be 
‘embodied’ in the built bridge. It has begun to exist in a 
new way, not merely in people’s heads but in stone or con- 
crete. From being a mere plan existing in people’s heads, 
it has become the form imposed on certain matter. Looking 
back from that point of view, we can now say that the 
engineer’s plan was the form of the bridge without its matter, 


or that when we describe him as having the plan in his mind 
we might equally have described him as having in mind the 
form of the finished bridge without its matter. 

The making of the bridge is the imposing of this form on 
this matter. When we speak of the engineer as making the 
plan, we are using the word ‘make’ in its other sense, as 
equivalent to create. Making a plan for a bridge is not 
imposing a certain form on a certain matter; it is a making 
that is not a transforming, that is to say, it is a creation. It 
has the other characteristics, too, that distinguish creating 
from fabricating. It need not be done as means to an end, 
for a man can make plans (for example, to illustrate a 
text-book of engineering) with no intention of executing 
them. In such a case the making of the plan is not means to 
composing the text-book, it is part of composing the text- 
book. It is not means to anything. Again, a person making 
a plan need not be carrying out a plan to make that plan. 
He may be doing this; he may for instance have planned a 
text-book for which he needs an example of a reinforced 
concrete bridge with a single span of 150 feet, to carry a 
two-track railway with a roadway above it, and he may work 
out a plan for such a bridge in order that it may occupy that 
place in the book. But this is not a necessary condition of 
planning. People sometimes speak as if everybody had, or 
ought to have, a plan for his whole life, to which every other 
plan he makes is or ought to be subordinated; but no one 
can do that. 

Making an artifact, or acting according to craft, thus 
consists of two stages. (1) Making the plan, which is creat- 
ing. (2) Imposing that plan on certain matter, which is 
fabricating. Let us now consider a case of creating where 
what is created is not a work of art. A person creating a 
disturbance need not be, though of course he may be, acting 
on a plan. He need not be, though of course he may be, 
creating it as means to some ulterior end, such as causing 
a government to resign. He cannot be transforming a 
pre-existing material, for there is nothing out of which a 


disturbance can be made; though he is able to create it 
only because he already stands, as a finite being always 
does stand, in a determinate situation; for example, at a 
political meeting. But what he creates cannot be some- 
thing that exists only in his own mind. A disturbance is 
something in the minds of the people disturbed. 

Next, let us take the case of a work of art. When a man 
makes up a tune, he may and very often does at the same time 
hum it or sing it or play it on an instrument. He may do 
none of these things, but write it on- paper. Or he may both 
hum it or the like, and also write it on paper at the same time 
or afterwards. Also he may do these things in public, so that 
the tune at its very birth becomes public property, like the 
disturbance we have just considered. But all these are 
accessories of the real work, though some of them are very 
likely useful accessories. The actual making of the tune is 
something that goes on in his head, and nowhere else. 

I have already said that a thing which ‘exists in a person’s 
head’ and nowhere else is alternatively called an imaginary 
thing. The actual making of the tune is therefore alternatively 
called the making of an imaginary tune. This is a case of 
creation, just as much as the making of a plan or a distur- 
bance, and for the same reasons, which it would be tedious 
to repeat. Hence the making of a tune is an instance of 
imaginative creation. The same applies to the making of a 
poem, or a picture, or any other work of art. 

The engineer, as we saw, when he made his plan in his 
own head, may proceed to do something else which we call 
‘making his plans’. His ‘plans’, here, are drawings and 
specifications on paper, and these are artifacts made to serve 
a certain purpose, namely to inform others or remind himself 
of the plan. The making of them is accordingly not imagina- 
tive creation ; indeed, it is not creation at all. It is fabrication, 
and the ability to do it is a specialized form of skill, the craft 
of engineer’s draughtsmanship. 

The artist, when he has made his tune, may go on to do 
something else which at first sight seems to resemble this: 


he may do what is called publishing it. He may sing or play 
it aloud, or write it down, and thus make it possible for others 
to get into their heads the same thing which he has in his. 
But what is written or printed on music-paper is not the tune. 
It is only something which when studied intelligently will 
enable others (or himself, when he has forgotten it) to 
construct the tune for themselves in their own heads. 

The relation between making the tune in his head and 
putting it down on paper is thus quite different from the 
relation, in the case of the engineer, between making a plan 
for a bridge and executing that plan. The engineer’s plan is 
embodied in the bridge : it is essentially a form that can be 
imposed on certain matter, and when the bridge is built the 
form is there, in the bridge, as the way in which the matter 
composing it is arranged. But the musician’s tune is not 
there on the paper at all. What is on the paper is not music, 
it is only musical notation. The relation of the tune to the 
notation is not like the relation of the plan to the bridge; it is 
like the relation of the plan to the specifications and drawings; 
for these, too, do not embody the plan as the bridge embodies 
it, they are only a notation from which the abstract or as yet 
unembodied plan can be reconstructed in the mind of a 
person who studies them. 

§ 4. Imagination and Make-believe 

Imagination, like art itself, is a word with proper and 
improper meanings. For our present purpose it will be 
enough to distinguish imagination proper from one thing 
that is often improperly so called : a thing already referred to 
under the name of make-believe. 

Make-believe involves a distinction between that which 
is called by this name and that which is called real ; and this 
distinction is of such a kind that the two exclude one another. 
A make-believe situation can never be a real situation, and 
vice versa. If, being hungry, I ‘imagine’ myself to be eating, 
this ‘bare imagination of a feast’ is a make-believe situation 
which I may be said to create for myself imaginatively; but 


this imaginative creation has nothing to do with art proper, 
though it has much to do with certain kinds of art falsely so 
called. It is the motive of all those sham works of art which 
provide their audiences or addicts with fantasies depicting 
a state of things in which their desires are satisfied. Dream- 
ing consists to a great extent (some psychologists say alto- 
gether) of make-believe in which the dreamer’s desires are 
thus satisfied; day-dreaming even more obviously so; and 
the sham works of art of which I am speaking are perhaps 
best understood as an organized and commercialized 
development of day-dreaming. A story is told of a psycho- 
logist who issued a questionnaire to all the girl students in 
a college, asking them how they spent their time, and learnt 
from their replies that I forget what vast percentage of it was 
spent in day-dreaming. He is said to have come to the 
conclusion that great results could be achieved if all this 
day-dreaming could be co-ordinated. Quite right; but he 
overlooked the fact that the thing had already been done, 
and that Hollywood was there to prove it. 

Imagination is indifferent to the distinction between the 
real and the unreal . 1 When I look out of the window, I see 
grass to right and left of the mullion that stands immediately 
before me; but I also imagine the grass going on where this 
mullion hides it from my sight. It may happen that I also 
imagine a lawn-mower standing on that part of the lawn. 
Now, the hidden part of the lawn is really there, the lawn- 
mower is not; but I can detect nothing, either in the way in 
which I imagine the two things, or in the ways in which they 
respectively appear to my imagination, which at all corre- 
sponds to this distinction. The act of imagining is of course 
an act really performed; but the imagined object or situa- 
tion or event is something which need not be real and need 
not be unreal, and the person imagining it neither imagines 

1 Further development of this point below, in Chapter XIII, § 1, will 
involve a certain modification of the statement that what is imagined is as 
such neither real nor unreal. The reader understands, I hope, that everything 
I say in Book I is avowedly provisional, and that my theory of art is not 
stated until Book III. 


it as real or unreal, nor, when he conies to reflect on his act of 
imagining, thinks of it as real or unreal. Make-believe, too, 
is a thing which can be done without reflecting on it. When 
it is so done, the person who does it is unaware that he is 
constructing for himself unreal objects or situations or 
events; but when he reflects, he either discovers that these 
things are unreal, or else falls into the error of taking them 
for realities. 

There is probably always a motive behind any act of make- 
believe, namely, the desire for something which we should 
enjoy or possess if the make-believe were truth. It implies 
a felt dissatisfaction with the situation in which one actually 
stands, and an attempt to compensate for this dissatisfaction 
not by practical means, by bringing a more satisfactory state 
of things into existence, but by imagining a more satis- 
factory state of things and getting what satisfaction one can 
out of that. For imagination proper there is no such motive. 
It is not because I am dissatisfied with the match-box lying 
before me on the table that I imagine its inside, whether as 
full or as empty; it is not because I am dissatisfied with an 
interrupted grass-plot that I imagine it as continuing where 
the mullion hides it from my view. Imagination is indifferent, 
not only to the distinction between real and unreal, but also 
to the distinction between desire and aversion. 

Make-believe presupposes imagination, and may be de- 
scribed as imagination operating in a peculiar way under 
the influence of peculiar forces. Out of the numerous things 
which one imagines, some are chosen, whether consciously 
or unconsciously, to be imagined with peculiar completeness 
or vividness or tenacity, and others are repressed, because 
the first are things whose reality one desires, and the second 
things from whose reality one has an aversion. The result is 
make-believe, which is thus imagination acting under the 
censorship of desire; where desire means not the desire 
to imagine, nor even the desire to realize an imagined 
situation, but the desire that the situation imagined were 


A good deal of damage has been done to aesthetic theory 
by confusing these two things. The connexion between art 
and imagination has been a commonplace for at least two 
hundred years ; 1 but the confusion between art and amuse- 
ment has been both reflected and reinforced by a confusion 
between imagination and make-believe, which culminates in 
the attempt of the psycho-analysts to subsume artistic 
creation under their theory (certainly a true theory) of 
‘fantasies’ as make-believe gratifications of desire. This 
attempt is admirably successful so Jong as it deals with the 
art, falsely so called, of the ordinary popular novel or film; 
but it could not conceivably be applied to art proper. When 
the attempt is made to base an aesthetic upon it (a thing 
which has happened lamentably often) the result is not an 
aesthetic but an anti-aesthetic. This may be because the 
psychologists who have tried to explain artistic creation by 
appeal to the notion of ‘fantasy’ have no idea that there is 
any such distinction as that between amusement art and art 
proper, but are merely perpetuating in their own jargon a 
vulgar misconception, common in the nineteenth century, 
according to which the artist is a kind of dreamer or day- 
dreamer, constructing in fancy a make-believe world which 
if it existed would be, at least in his own opinion, a better or 
more pleasant one than that in which we live. Competent 
artists and competent aestheticians have again and again 
protested against this misconception; but the protest has 
naturally had no effect on the many people whose experience 
of so-called art, being limited to the ‘art’ of organized and 
commercialized day-dreaming, it faithfully describes. And 
to this class it would seem that our psycho-analyst aesthe- 
ticians belong. Or perhaps it is their patients that belong 
to it. An excessive indulgence in day-dreaming would cer- 
tainly tend to produce moral diseases like those from which 
their patients suffer. 

1 The habit of calling aesthetic experience ‘the pleasures of the imagi- 
nation’ dates back, I think, to Addison; the philosophical theory of art as 
imagination, to his contemporary Vico. 



§ 5. The Work of Art as Imaginary Object 

If the making of a tune is an instance of imaginative 
creation, a tune is an imaginary thing. And the same applies 
to a poem or a painting or any other work of art. This seems 
paradoxical ; we are apt to think that a tune is not an imaginary 
thing but a real thing, a real collection of noises; that a 
painting is a real piece of canvas covered with real colours ; 
and so on. I hope to show, if the reader will have patience, 
that there is no paradox Jiere ; that both these propositions 
express what we do as a matter of fact say about works of art; 
and that they do not contradict one another, because they are 
concerned with different things. 

When, speaking of a work of art (tune, picture, &c.), we 
mean by art a specific craft, intended as a stimulus for produc- 
ing specific emotional effects in an audience, we certainly mean 
to designate by the term ‘work of art’ something that we should 
call real. The artist as magician or purveyor of amusement is 
necessarily a craftsman making real things, and making them 
out of some material according to some plan. His works are 
as real as the works of an engineer, and for the same reason. 

But it does not at all follow that the same is true of an 
artist proper. His business is not to produce an emotional 
effect in an audience, but, for example, to make a tune. 
This tune is already complete and perfect when it exists 
merely as a tune in his head, that is, an imaginary tune. 
Next, he may arrange for the tune to be played before an 
audience. Now there comes into existence a real tune, a 
collection of noises. But which of these two things is the 
work of art? Which of them is the music? The answer is 
implied in what we have already said: the music, the work of 
art, is not the collection of noises, it is the tune in the com- 
poser’s head. The noises made by the performers, and heard 
by the audience, are not the music at all ; they are only means 
by which the audience, if they listen intelligently (not other- 
wise), can reconstruct for themselves the imaginary tune that 
existed in the composer’s head. 


This is not a paradox. It is not something Trapa 26£av, 
contrary to what we ordinarily believe and express in our 
ordinary speech. We all know perfectly well, and remind 
each other often enough, that a person who hears the noises 
the instruments make is not thereby possessing himself of 
the music. Perhaps no one can do that unless he does 
hear the noises ; but there is something else which he must 
do as well. Our ordinary word for this other thing is listen- 
ing; and the listening which we have to do when we hear the 
noises made by musicians is in a way rather like the thinking 
we have to do when we hear the noises made, for example, by 
a person lecturing on a scientific subject. We hear the sound 
of his voice; but what he is doing is not simply to make 
noises, but to develop a scientific thesis. The noises are 
meant to assist us in achieving what he assumes to be our 
purpose in coming to hear him lecture, that is, thinking this 
same scientific thesis for ourselves. The lecture, therefore, 
is not a collection of noises made by the lecturer with his organs 
of speech; it is a collection of scientific thoughts related to 
those noises in such a way that a person who. not only hears 
but thinks as well becomes able to think these thoughts for 
himself. We may call this the communication of thought by 
means of speech, if we like; but if we do, we must think of 
communication not as an ‘imparting’ of thought by the 
speaker to the hearer, the speaker somehow planting his 
thought in the hearer’s receptive mind, but as a ‘reproduction’ 
of the speaker’s thought by the hearer, in virtue of his own 
active thinking. 

The parallel with listening to music is not complete. The 
two cases are similar at one point, dissimilar at another. 
They are dissimilar in that a concert and a scientific lecture 
are different things, and what we are trying to ‘get out of’ 
the concert is a thing of a different kind from the scientific 
thoughts we are trying to ‘get out of’ the lecture. But they 
are similar in this: that just as what we get out of the lecture 
is something other than the noises we hear proceeding from 
the lecturer’s mouth, so what we get out of the concert is 



something other than the noises made by the performers. 
In each case, what we get out of it is something which we 
have to reconstruct in our own minds, and by our own efforts ; 
something which remains for ever inaccessible to a person 
who cannot or will not make efforts of the right kind, how- 
ever completely he hears the sounds that fill the room in 
which he is sitting. 

This, I repeat, is something we all know perfectly well. 
And because we all know it, we need not trouble to examine 
or criticize the ideas of aestheticians (if there are any left 
to-day — they were common enough at one time) who say 
that what we get out of listening to music, or looking at 
paintings, or the like, is some peculiar kind of sensual 
pleasure. When we do these things, we certainly may, in so 
far as we are using our senses, enjoy sensual pleasures. It 
would be odd if we did not. A colour, or a shape, or an 
instrumental timbre may give us an exquisite pleasure of a 
purely sensual kind. It may even be true (though this is not so 
certain) that no one would become a lover of music unless he 
were more susceptible than other people to the sensual pleasure 
of sound. But even if a special susceptibility to this pleasure 
may at first lead some people towards music, they must, 
in proportion as they are more susceptible, take the more 
pains to prevent that susceptibility from interfering with 
their power of listening. For any concentration on the 
pleasantness of the noises themselves concentrates the mind 
on hearing, and makes it hard or impossible to listen. There 
is a kind of person who goes to concerts mainly for the 
sensual pleasure he gets from the sheer sounds ; his presence 
may be good for the box-office, but it is as bad for music as the 
presence of a person who went to a scientific lecture for the 
sensual pleasure he got out of the tones of the lecturer’s voice 
would be for science. And this, again, everybody knows. 

It is unnecessary to go through the form of applying what 
has been said about music to the other arts. We must try 
instead to make in a positive shape the point that has been 
put negatively. Music does not consist of heard noises, 

4436 L 


paintings do not consist of seen colours, and so forth. Of 
what, then, do these things consist ? Not, clearly, of a ‘form’, 
understood as a pattern or a system of relations between the 
various noises we hear or the various colours we see. Such 
‘forms’ are nothing but the perceived structures of bodily 
‘works of art’, that is to say, ‘works of art’ falsely so called; 
and these formalistic theories of art, popular though they 
have been and are, have no relevance to art proper and will 
not be further considered in this book. The distinction 
between form and matter, on which they are based, is a dis- 
tinction belonging to the philosophy of craft, and not 
applicable to the philosophy of art. 

The work of art proper is something not seen or heard, 
but something imagined. But what is it that we imagine? 
We have suggested that in music the work of art proper is an 
imagined tune. Let us begin by developing this idea. 

Everybody must have noticed a certain discrepancy be- 
tween what we actually see when looking at a picture or 
statue or play and what we see imaginatively; what we 
actually see when listening to music or speech and what we 
imaginatively hear. To take an obvious example : in watching 
a puppet-play we could (as we say) swear that we have seen 
the expression on the puppets’ faces change with their chang- 
ing gestures and the puppet-man’s changing words and tones 
of voice. Knowing that they are only puppets, we know that 
their facial expression cannot change; but that makes no differ- 
ence; we continue to see imaginatively the expressions which 
we know that we do not see actually. The same thing happens 
in the case of masked actors like those of the Greek stage. 

In listening to the pianoforte, again, we know from 
evidence of the same kind that we must be hearing every 
note begin with a sforzando, and fade away for the whole 
length of time that it continues to sound. But our imagination 
enables us to read into this experience something quite 
different. As we seem to see the puppets’ features move, so 
we seem to hear a pianist producing a sostenuto tone, almost 
like that of a horn; and in fact notes of the horn and the 



pianoforte are easily mistaken one for the other. Still 
stranger, when we hear a violin and pianoforte playing 
together in the key, say, of G, the violin’s F sharp is actually 
played a great deal sharper than the pianoforte’s. Such a 
discrepancy would sound intolerably out of tune except to a 
person whose imagination was trained to focus itself on the 
key of G, and silently corrected every note of the equally 
tempered pianoforte to suit it. The corrections which 
imagination must thus carry out, in order that we should be 
able to listen to an entire orchestra, beggar description. 
When we listen to a speaker or singer, imagination is con- 
stantly supplying articulate sounds which actually our ears 
do not catch. In looking at a drawing in pen or pencil, we 
take a series of roughly parallel lines for the tint of a shadow. 
And so on. 

Conversely, in all these cases imagination works negatively. 
We disimagine, if I may use the word, a great deal which 
actually we see and hear. The street noises at a concert, the 
noises made by our breathing and shuffling neighbours, and 
even some of the noises made by the performers, are thus 
shut out of the picture unless by their loudness or in some 
other way they are too obtrusive to be ignored. At the 
theatre, we are strangely able to ignore the silhouettes of the 
people sitting in front of us, and a good many things that 
happen on the stage. Looking at a picture, we do not notice 
the shadows that fall on it or, unless it is excessive, the light 
reflected from its varnish. 

All this is commonplace. And the conclusion has already 
been stated by Shakespeare’s Theseus : ‘the best in this kind 
[‘works of art’, as things actually perceived by the senses] 
are but shadows, and the worst are no worse if imagination 
amend them.’ The music to which we listen is not the heard 
sound, but that sound as amended in various ways by the 
listener’s imagination, and so with the other arts. 

But this does not go nearly far enough. Reflection will 
show that the imagination with which we listen to music is 
something more, and more complex, than any inward ear; 


the imagination with which we look at paintings is some- 
thing more than ‘the mind’s eye’. Let us consider this in the 
case of painting. 

§ 6. The Total Imaginative Experience 

The change which came over painting at the close of the 
nineteenth century was nothing short of revolutionary. 
Every one in the course of that century had supposed that 
painting was ‘a visual art’; that the painter was primarily 
a person who used his eyes, and used his hands only to record 
what the use of his eyes had revealed to him. Then came 
Cezanne, and began to paint like a blind man. His still-life 
studies, which enshrine the essence of his genius, are like 
groups of things that have been groped over with the hands; 
he uses colour not to reproduce what he sees in looking at 
them but to express almost in a kind of algebraic notation 
what in this groping he has felt. So with his interiors; the 
spectator finds himself bumping about those rooms, circum- 
navigating with caution those menacingly angular tables, 
coming up to the persons that so massively occupy those 
chairs and fending himself off them with his hands. It is the 
same when Cezanne takes us into the open air. His land- 
scapes have lost almost every trace of visuality. Trees never 
looked like that; that is how they feel to a man who en- 
counters them with his eyes shut, blundering against them 
blindly. A bridge is no longer a pattern of colour, as it is for 
Cotman; or a patch of colour so distorted as to arouse in the 
spectator the combined emotions of antiquarianism and 
vertigo, as it is for Mr. Frank Brangwyn; it is a perplexing 
mixture of projections and recessions, over and round which 
we find ourselves feeling our way as one can imagine an 
infant feeling its way, when it has barely begun to crawl, 
among the nursery furniture. And over the landscape broods 
the obsession of Mont Saint-Victoire, never looked at, but 
always felt, as a child feels the table over the back of its head. 

Of course Cezanne was right. Painting can never be a 
visual art. A man paints with his hands, not with his eyes. 


The Impressionist doctrine that what one paints is light 1 
was a pedantry which failed to destroy the painters it en- 
slaved only because they remained painters in defiance of 
the doctrine: men of their hands, men who did their work 
with fingers and wrist and arm, and even (as they walked 
about the studio) with their legs and toes. What one paints 
is what can be painted ; no one can do more ; and what can be 
painted must stand in some relation to the muscular activity 
of painting it. Cezanne’s practice reminds one of Kant’s 
theory that the painter’s ,only use for his colours is to make 
shapes visible. But it is really quite different. Kant thought 
of the painter’s shapes as two-dimensional shapes visibly 
traced on the canvass; Cezanne’s shapes are never two- 
dimensional, and they are never traced on the canvass ; they 
are solids, and we get at them through the canvass. In this 
new kind of painting the ‘plane of the picture’ disappears; 
it melts into nothing, and we go through it . 2 

Vernon Blake, who understood all this very well from the 
angle of the practising artist, and could explain himself in 
words like the Irishman he was, told draughtsmen that the 
plane of the picture was a mere superstition. Hold your 
pencil vertical to the paper, said he; don’t stroke the paper, 
dig into it; think of it as if it were the surface of a slab of clay 
in which you were going to cut a relief, and of your pencil as 
a knife. Then you will find that you can draw something 
which is not a mere pattern on paper, but a solid thing lying 
inside or behind the paper. 

1 Anticipated by Uvedale Price as long ago as 1 801 : ‘I can imagine a man 
of the future, who may be born without the sense of feeling, being able to 
see nothing but light variously modified’ (Dialogue on the distinct characters 
of the Picturesque and Beautiful). 

2 The ‘disappearance’ of the picture-plane is the reason why, in modem 
artists who have learnt to accept Cezanne’s principles and to carry their 
consequences a stage further than he carried them himself, perspective (to the 
great scandal of the man in the street, who clings to the picture-plane as 
unconsciously and as convulsively as a drowning man to a spar) has dis- 
appeared too. The man in the street thinks that this has happened because 
these modem fellows can’t draw; which is like thinking that young men of the 
Royal Air Force career about in the sky because they can’t walk. See p. 153. 


In Mr. Berenson’s hands the revolution became retro- 
spective. He found that the great Italian painters yielded 
altogether new results when approached in this manner. He 
taught his pupils (and every one who takes any interest in 
Renaissance painting nowadays is Mr. Berenson’s pupil) to 
look in paintings for what he called ‘tactile values’; to think 
of their muscles as they stood before a picture, and notice 
what happened in their fingers and elbows. He showed that 
Masaccio and Raphael, to take only two outstanding in- 
stances, were painting as Cezanne painted, not at all as Monet 
or Sisley painted; not squirting light on a canvass, but 
exploring with arms and legs a world of solid things where 
Masaccio stalks giant-like on the ground and Raphael floats 
through serene air. 

In order to understand the theoretical significance of these 
facts, we must look back at the ordinary theory of painting 
current in the nineteenth century. This was based on the 
conception of a ‘work of art’, with its implication that the 
artist is a kind of craftsman producing things of this or that 
kind, each with the characteristics proper to its kind, 
according to the difference between one kind of craft and 
another. The musician makes sounds; the sculptor makes 
solid shapes in stone or metal ; the painter makes patterns of 
paint on canvass. What there is in these works depends, 
of course, on what kind of works they are; and what the 
spectator finds in them depends on what there is in them. 
The spectator in looking at a picture is simply seeing flat 
patterns of colour, and he can get nothing out of the picture 
except what can be contained in such patterns. 

The forgotten truth about painting which was redis- 
covered by what may be called the Cezanne-Berenson ap- 
proach to it was that the spectator’s experience on looking 
at a picture is not a specifically visual experience at all. What 
he experiences does not consist of what he sees. It does not 
even consist of this as modified, supplemented, and ex- 
purgated by the work of the visual imagination. It does not 
belong to sight alone, it belongs also (and on some occasions 


even more essentially) to touch. We must be a little more 
accurate, however. When Mr. Berenson speaks of tactile 
values, he is not thinking of things like the texture of fur and 
cloth, the cool roughness of bark, the smoothness or grittiness 
of a stone, and other qualities which things exhibit to our 
sensitive finger-tips. As his own statements abundantly 
show, he is thinking, or thinking in the main, of distance and 
space and mass: not of touch sensations, but of motor 
sensations such as we experience by using our muscles and 
moving our limbs. But these are not actual motor sensations, 
they are imaginary motor sensations. In order to enjoy 
them when looking at a Masaccio we need not walk straight 
through the picture, or even stride about the gallery; what 
we are doing is to imagine ourselves as moving in these ways. 
In short: what we get from looking at a picture is not merely 
the experience of seeing, or even partly seeing and partly 
imagining, certain visible objects; it is also, and in Mr. 
Berenson’s opinion more importantly, the imaginary ex- 
perience of certain complicated muscular movements. 

Persons especially interested in painting may have thought 
all this, when Mr. Berenson began saying it, something 
strange and new; but in the case of other arts the parallels 
were very familiar. It was well known that in listening to 
music we not only hear the noises of which the ‘music’, that 
is to say the sequences and combinations of audible sounds, 
actually consists; we also enjoy imaginary experiences which 
do not belong to the region of sound at all, notably visual 
and motor experiences. Everybody knew, too, that poetry 
has the power of bringing before us not only the sounds 
which constitute the audible fabric of the ‘poem’, but other 
sounds, and sights, and tactile and motor experiences, and 
at times even scents, all of which we possess, when we listen 
to poetry, in imagination. 

This suggests that what we get out of a work of art is al- 
ways divisible into two parts. (1) There is a specialized sen- 
suous experience, an experience of seeing or hearing as the 
case may be. (2) There is also a non-specialized imaginative 


experience, involving not only elements homogeneous, after 
their imaginary fashion, with those which make up the 
specialized sensuous experience, but others heterogeneous 
with them. So remote is this imaginative experience from 
the specialism of its sensuous basis, that we may go so far 
.as to call it an imaginative experience of total activity. 

At this point the premature theorist lifts up his voice 
again. ‘See’, he exclaims, ‘how completely we have turned 
the tables on the old-fashioned theory that what we get out 
of art is nothing but the sensual pleasure of sight or hearing! 
The enjoyment of art is no merely sensuous experience, it is 
an imaginative experience. A person who listens to music, 
instead of merely hearing it, is not only experiencing noises, 
pleasant though these may be. He is imaginatively ex- 
periencing all manner of visions and motions ; the sea, the 
sky, the stars; the falling of the rain-drops, the rushing of 
the wind, the storm, the flow of the brook ; 1 the dance, the 
embrace, and the battle. A person who looks at pictures, 
instead of merely seeing patterns of colour, is moving in 
imagination among buildings and landscapes and human 
forms. What follows ? Plainly this : the value of any given 
work of art to a person properly qualified to appreciate its 
value is not the delightfulness of the sensuous elements in 
which as a work of art it actually consists, but the delight- 
fulness of the imaginative experience which those sensuous 
elements awake in him. Works of art are only means to an 
end; the end is this total imaginative experience which they 
enable us to enjoy.’ 

This attempt to rehabilitate the technical theory depends 
on distinguishing what we find in the work of art, its actual 
sensuous qualities, as put there by the artist, from something 
else which we do not strictly find in it, but rather import 
into it from our own stores of experience and powers of 
imagination. The first is conceived as objective, really be- 
longing to the work of art: the second as subjective, belong- 
ing not to it but to activities which go on in us when we 

1 EmestNewman, ‘Programme Music’, in Musical Studies (190$),$. 109. 


contemplate it. The peculiar value of this contemplation, 
then, is conceived as lying not in the first thing but in the 
second. Any one having the use of his senses could see all 
the colours and shapes that a picture contains, and hear all the 
sounds which together make up a symphony; but he would 
not on that account be enjoying an aesthetic experience. To 
do that he must use his imagination, and so proceed from the 
first part of the experience, which is given in sensation, to 
the second part, which is imaginatively constructed. 

This seems to be the position of the ‘realistic’ philosophers 
who maintain that what they call ‘beauty’ is ‘subjective’. 
The peculiar value which belongs to an experience such as 
that of listening to music or looking at pictures arises, they 
think, not from our getting out of these things what is really 
in them, or ‘apprehending their objective nature’, but from 
our being stimulated by contact with them to certain free 
activities of our own. It is in these activities that the value 
really resides; and although (to use Professor Alexander’s 
word) we may ‘impute’ it to the music or the picture, it 
actually belongs not to them but to us. 1 

But we cannot rest in this position. The distinction 
between what we find and what we bring is altogether too 
naive. Let us look at it from the point of view of the artist. 
He presents us with a picture. According to the doctrine 
just expounded, he has actually put into this picture certain 
colours which, by merely opening our eyes and looking at it, 
we shall find there. Is this all he did in painting the picture ? 
Certainly not. When he painted it, he was in possession of 
an experience quite other than that of seeing the colours he 
was putting on the canvass ; an imaginary experience of total 
activity more or less like that which we construct for our- 
selves when we look at the picture. If he knew how to paint, 
and if we know how to look at a painting, the resemblance 
between this imaginary experience of his and the imaginary 

1 So Alexander, Beauty and Other Forms of Value (1933), pp. 25-6; 
Carritt, What is Beauty? (1932), cL iv. I am not forgetting that Professor 
Alexander has a chapter (op. cit. 9 ch. x) on ‘The objectivity of Beauty*. 


experience which we get from looking at his work is at least 
as close as that between the colours he saw in the picture and 
those we see; perhaps closer. But if he paints his picture in 
such a way that we, when we look at it using our imagination, 
find ourselves enjoying an imaginary experience of total 
activity like that which he enjoyed when painting it, there is 
not much sense in saying that we bring this experience with 
us to the picture and do not find it there. The artist, if we 
told him that, would laugh at us and assure us that what we 
believed ourselves to have read into -the picture was just what 
he put there. 

No doubt there is a sense in which we bring it with us. 
Our finding of it is not something that merely happens to us, 
it is something we do, and do because we are the right kind 
of people to do it. The imaginary experience which we get 
from the picture is not merely the kind of experience the 
picture is capable of arousing, it is the kind of experience 
we are capable of having. But this applies equally to the 
colours. He has not put into the pictures certain colours 
which we passively find there. He has painted, and seen 
certain colours come into existence as he paints. If we, 
looking at his picture afterwards, see the same colours, that 
is because our own powers of colour-vision are like his. 
Apart from the activity of our senses we should see no colours 
at all. 

Thus the two parts of the experience are not contrasted 
in the way in which we fancied them to be. There is no 
justification for saying that the sensuous part of it is some- 
thing we find and the imaginary part something we bring, 
or that the sensuous part is objectively ‘there’ in the ‘work 
of art’, the imaginary part subjective, a mode of conscious- 
ness as distinct from a quality of a thing. Certainly we find 
the colours there in the painting; but we find them only 
because we are actively using our eyes, and have eyes of such 
a kind as to see what the painter wanted us to see, which a 
colour-blind person could not have done. We bring our 
powers of vision with us, and find what they reveal. Similarly, 


we bring our imaginative powers with us, and find what they 
reveal: namely, an imaginary experience of total activity 
which we find in the picture because the painter had put 
it there. 

In the light of this discussion let us recapitulate and 
summarize our attempt to answer the question, what is a 
work of art ? What, for example, is a piece of music ? 

(x) In the pseudo-aesthetic sense for which art is a kind 
of craft, a piece of music is a series of audible noises. The 
psychological and ‘realistic’ aestheticians, as we can now see, 
have not got beyond this pseudo-aesthetic conception. 

(2) If ‘work of art’ means work of art proper, a piece of 
music is not something audible, but something which may 
exist solely in the musician’s head (§ 3). 

(3) To some extent it must exist solely in the musician’s 
head (including, of course, the audience as well as the 
composer under that name), for his imagination is always 
supplementing, correcting, and expurgating what he actually 
hears (§ 4). 

(4) The music which he actually enjoys as a work of art 
is thus never sensuously or ‘actually’ heard at all. It is some- 
thing imagined. 

(5) But it is not imagined sound (in the case of painting, 
it is not imagined colour-patterns, &c.). It is an imagined 
experience of total activity (§ 5). 

(6) Thus a work of art proper is a total activity which the 
person enjoying it apprehends, or is conscious of, by the use 
of his imagination. 

§ 7. Transition to Book II 

Putting together the conclusions of this chapter and the 
last, we get the following result. 

By creating for ourselves an imaginary experience or 
activity, we express our emotions ; and this is what we call art. 

What this formula means, we do not yet know. We can 
annotate it word by word; but only to forestall misunder- ; 
standings, thus. ‘Creating’ refers to a productive activity ; 


which is not technical in character. ‘For ourselves’ does not 
exclude ‘for others’ ; on the contrary, it seems to include that; 
at any rate in principle. ‘Imaginary’ does not mean anything 
in the least like ‘make-believe’, nor does it imply that what 
goes by that name is private to the person who imagines. 
The ‘experience or activity’ seems not to be sensuous, and 
not to be in any way specialized : it is some kind of general 
activity in which the whole self is involved. ‘Expressing’ 
emotions is certainly not the same thing as arousing them. 
There is emotion there before we express it. But as we express 
it, we confer upon it a different kind of emotional colouring; 
in one way, therefore, expression creates what it expresses, 
for exactly this emotion, colouring and all, only exists so far 
as it is expressed. Finally, we cannot say what ‘emotion’ is, 
except that we mean by it the kind of thing which, on the 
kind of occasion we are talking about, is expressed. 

This is as far as we can get by the met -.od we have been 
hitherto using. We have tried, so far, merely to repeat what 
every one knows; every one, that is, who is accustomed to 
dealing with art and distinguishing art proper from art 
falsely so called. We must now begin working on a different 
line. There are three problems before us : three unknowns 
in the formula stated above. We do not know what imagina- 
tion is. We do not know what emotion is. And we do not 
know what is the nature of the connexion between them, 
described by saying that imagination expresses emotion. 

These problems must be dealt with (and this is what I 
mean by saying we must work on a different line), not by 
continuing to concentrate our attention on the special 
characteristics of aesthetic experience, but by broadening 
our view, so far as we can, until it covers the general charac- 
teristics of experience as a whole. It was explained in the 
introductory chapter that this is the only way in which we 
can hope to go beyond the preliminary business of establish- 
ing a satisfactory usage of the term art, and approach the 
problem of defining it. 

In Book II, therefore, I shall make a fresh start. I shall 


try to work out a theory of imagination and of its place in 
the structure of experience as a whole, by developing what 
has already been said about it by well-known philosophers. 
In doing this I shall make no use whatever of anything 
contained in Book I. I shall be, as it were, tunnelling from 
a quite different direction towards the same point which the 
superficial scratchings of Book I have laid more or less bare. 
When these two lines of inquiry are complete, they should 
coincide; and their union should produce a theory of art, 
to be stated in Book III„ 

Further note to p. 145, on perspective and the picture-plane . — The picture 
as a bodily thing has of course a ‘plane’, as one discovers by handling it. But 
in order to see it as a work of art one stands back and looks at it. When you do 
that, the picture-plane is no longer present to you as something given in sensation 
(though even if it were, you could ‘disimagine’ it; cf. p. 143); it is present to 
you only as something you imagine by means of tactile (or rather motor) 
imagination (p. 147). The only universal reasons for doing this are non- 
aesthetic reasons, connected with your relation to the picture as a bodily 
thing. When you look at it aesthetically, these reasons disappear. But there 
may, under certain conditions, be genuinely aesthetic reasons for doing it, 
namely the following. 

The origin of perspective (which is the logical consequence of imagining 
the picture-plane) was connected with the use of painting as an adjunct to 
architecture. If the shape of an interior is meant to be looked at aesthetically, 
and if one of its walls is covered with a painting also meant to be looked at 
aesthetically, and if these two aesthetic experiences are meant to be fused into 
one (not otherwise), then, since the wall-plane is an element in the architec- 
tural design, the picture must be so painted that a spectator’s imagination is 
drawn towards the wall-plane, not away from it. This is why Renaissance 
painters, acting as interior decorators, revived and elaborated the system of 
perspective already used by interior decorators at Pompeii and elsewhere in 
the ancient world. For movable pictures, perspective is mere pedantry. 




§ i. The Two Contrasted 

Of all the features which our experience presents when we 
reflect upon it, none is more familiar than the contrast 
between thinking and feeling. I will try to state some of the 
characteristics of this contrast. 

First, there is a special kind of simplicity about feeling, 
in contrast with what may be called the bipolarity of thought. 
Whenever we think we are more or less conscious of a 
distinction between thinking well and thinking ill, doing the 
job of thinking successfully or unsuccessfully. The distinc- 
tions between right and wrong, good and bad, true and false, 
are special cases of this bipolarity; it is plain that none of 
them could arise except in the experience of a thinking being. 
This is not merely because they are distinctions; nor even 
merely because they are oppositions. Distinctions and even 
oppositions can arise in feeling as such: for example the 
distinction between red and blue, the opposition between 
hot and cold or pleasant and painful. The distinction or 
opposition in virtue of which I speak of thought as bipolar 
is of a quite different kind from these. There is nothing in 
the case of feeling to correspond with what, in the case, of 
thinking, may be called mis-thinking or thinking wrong. The 
most general name for this thing is failure. Failure and its 
opposite, success, imply that the activity which fails or suc- 
ceeds is not only a ‘doing something’ but a ‘trying to do some- 
thing’, where the word ‘trying’ refers not to what is called 
‘conation’, but to an activity which sets itself definite tasks, and 
judges itself as having succeeded or failed by reference to 
the standards or criteria which it thereby imposes on itself. 

Secondly, there is a special kind of privacy about feelings, 
in contrast with what may be called the publicity of thoughts. 
A hundred people in the street may all feel cold, but each 

4436 M ' 


person’s feeling is private to himself. But if they all think 
that the thermometer reads 21 ° Fahrenheit, they are all 
thinking the same thought: this thought is public to them 
all. The act of thinking it may or may not be an entirely 
private act; but a thought in the sense of what we think is 
not the act of thinking it, and a feeling in the sense of what 
we feel is not the act of feeling it. In the last paragraph I 
pointed to a distinction between the act of feeling and the 
act of thought; in this I am pointing to a distinction between 
what we feel and what we think. The cold that our hundred 
people feel is not the physical fact that there are ten degrees 
of frost; nor is it even something due to that fact, for if 
one of them had lately been living in a colder climate he 
would not feel cold in those physical conditions ; it is simply 
a feeling in them, or rather a hundred different feelings, each 
private to the person who feels it, but each in certain ways 
like all the rest. But the ‘fact’ or ‘proposition’ or ‘thought’ 
that there are ten degrees of frost is not a hundred different 
‘facts’ or ‘propositions’ or ‘thoughts’ ; it is one ‘fact’ or ‘pro- 
position’ or ‘thought’ which a hundred different people 
‘apprehend’ or ‘assent to’ or ‘think’. And what is here said 
of the relation between different persons in respect of what 
they feel and think respectively is equally true of the relation 
between different occasions of feeling and thinking re- 
spectively in the life of a single person. 

Thirdly, when these two distinctions are taken together 
the upshot of them can be stated by saying that thoughts can 
corroborate or contradict each other, but feelings cannot. 
If some one beside myself thinks that there are ten degrees 
Of frost, we are said to agree in thinking this; and the fact of 
agreement, though it does not prove me right, makes this more 
probable. If I think there are ten degrees of frost and some 
one else thinks not, we are contradicting each other, and one 
of us must be wrong. But if I feel cold, nothing about this 
feeling of mine follows from some one else’s feeling either 
cold or warm. He is not agreeing or disagreeing with me. 

It has sometimes been said that what we feel is always 


something existing here and now, and limited in its existence 
to the place and time at which it is felt; whereas what we 
think is always something eternal, something having no 
special habitation of its own in space and time but existing 
everywhere and always. In some sense this is perhaps true. 
But for the present we should do well to regard it as an 
overstatement, at least so far as the second part of it is 
concerned. What we feel is certainly limited in its existence 
to the here and now in which we feel it. The experience of 
feeling is a perpetual flux in which nothing remains the same, 
and what we take for permanence or recurrence is not a 
sameness of feeling at different times but only a greater or 
less degree of resemblance between different feelings. The 
only motive any one can have for denying this, and con- 
juring up the metaphysical fairy-tale of a limbo in which all 
possible feelings are stored when nobody feels them, is the 
panic caused by sophistical attempts to reduce the whole of 
experience to feeling and consequently the whole world to 
a phantasmagoria of feelings. The right answer to these 
sophistries is not ‘then we must confer on feelings the attri- 
butes proper to thoughts’, but, ‘there is more in experience 
than mere feeling; there is thought as well’. 

But in order to point the contrast between feeling and 
thinking it is not necessary to assert the eternity of all objects 
of thought as such. What is necessary is only to insist that in 
thinking we are concerned with something that lasts, even if 
it does not last for ever; something that genuinely recurs as a 
factor in experience, even if it cannot recur to infinity. We 
need not ask whether the fact that there were ten degrees of 
frost here on a certain morning is an eternal truth, whatever 
that may mean; all we are obliged to maintain is that it is 
a truth knowable to more than one person and to the same 
person on more than one occasion. If we compare the flux of 
feeling to the flow of a river, thought has at least the relative 
solidity and permanence of the soil and rocks that make its 

It may be wise here to enter a warning. I have distinguished 


the activities of feeling and thinking from what is re- 
spectively felt and thought. Words like thought, feeling, 
knowledge, experience, have notoriously a double-barrelled 
significance. They refer both to the activity of thinking and 
to what we think; the activity of feeling and what we feel; 
the activity of knowing and what we know; the activity of 
experiencing and what we experience. When such words are 
used, it is important not to confuse these two halves of their 
meaning. My warning is this: it is important, also, to 
remember that the relation between the two things referred 
to is not the same in all these various cases. Thinking and 
feeling are different not only in that what we feel is something 
different in kind from what we think, nor also because the act 
of thinking is a different kind of act from the act of feeling, 
but because the relation between the act of thinking and 
what we think is different in kind from the relation between 
the act of feeling and what we feel. 

§ 2. Feeling 

If we now consider feeling by itself, we find that there are 
two different kinds of experience each of which goes by that 
name. First, we say that hot and cold, hard and soft, are 
things that we feel; in Scotland they talk of ‘feeling’ a smell, 
plainly in the same sense; and if we liked to extend that 
usage we might claim a similar right to speak of ‘feeling’ a 
sound or a colour. We do not actually use the English word 
so widely; but we do so use words derived from its Latin 
equivalent sentio ; we describe the specialized activities of 
thus ‘feeling’ colours, sounds, scents, and the like collec- 
tively as the senses, and the common activity which is 
specialized into them as sensation. Secondly, we speak of 
feeling pleasure or pain, anger, fear, and so forth. Here also 
we have a general activity of feeling specialized into various 
kinds, each with its proper specification of what we feel. It is 
not, clearly, of quite the same kind as sensation; to distin- 
guish it, let us call it emotion. 

The distinction between these two kinds of feeling is not 


the distinction between two species of a common genus, like 
that between seeing and hearing, or feeling anger and feeling 
fear. Seeing and hearing are alternative specifications of their 
common genus sensation, so that an act of seeing is one act 
of sensation, and an act of hearing is another; if we happen 
to see and hear at the same time (as we often do, though 
not always) we are performing two acts of sensation at 
once. There is a relation between sensation and emotion 
which is more intimate than this. When an infant is terrified 
at the sight of a scarlet curtain blazing in the sunlight, there 
are not two distinct experiences in its mind, one a sensation 
of red and the other an emotion of fear: there is only one 
experience, a terrifying red. We can certainly analyse that 
experience into two elements, one sensuous and the other 
emotional; but this is not to divide it into two experiences, 
each independent of the other, like seeing red and hearing 
the note of a bell. 

These two elements, sensuous and emotional, are not 
merely combined in the experience: they are combined 
according to a definite structural pattern. This pattern can 
be described by saying that the sensation takes precedence 
of the emotion. Precedence here does not mean priority in 
time. Had that been the case, there would have been two 
experiences instead of one. Nor is it quite the same as the 
relation of cause to effect; for emotion is not a mere effect of 
sensation, it is a distinct and autonomous element in the 
experience. Nor is it the same as the logical relation of ground 
to consequent. We do, however, apply to it the word 
‘because’, and say that the child is frightened because it sees 
the curtain, although seeing the curtain and being frightened 
are not two separate experiences. Relations of this type, 
however we choose to describe them, are familiar. I raise 
my hand from the elbow by contracting the biceps. The 
contraction of the biceps and the raising of the hand are not 
two bodily acts, but one. This one act is analysable into 
these two parts, and of these the muscular contraction takes 
precedence of the change in the position of the hand (the 


hand rises ‘because’ the biceps contracts), although it is 
anatomically impossible that the biceps should contract 
before the hand rose. I shall refer to this precedence of 
sensation over emotion by describing a given emotion as the 
‘emotional charge’ on the corresponding sensation ; or, since 
it is desirable to distinguish the act of feeling from what we 
feel, and confine the term sensation to the act of feeling, 
the corresponding sensum. 

It would probably be true to say that every sensum has its 
own emotional charge. This is difficult to verify in detail to 
any great extent; partly because it is difficult to stage the 
necessary tests, since we generally experience a very large 
number of sensa at once and therefore cannot easily deter- 
mine whether each of them really has a distinct emotional 
charge; partly because we are accustomed, for the purposes 
of everyday life, to attend far more carefully to our sensations 
than to our emotions. 

The habit of ‘sterilizing’ sensa by ignoring their emotional 
charge is not equally prevalent among all sorts and condi- 
tions of men. It seems to be especially characteristic of adult 
and ‘educated’ people in what is called modern European 
civilization; among them, it is more developed in men than 
in women, and less in artists than in others. To study the 
so-called colour-symbolism of the Middle Ages is to see 
into a world where, even among adult and educated Euro- 
peans, the sterilizing of colour-sensa has not taken place: 
where any one who is conscious of seeing a colour is simul- 
taneously conscious of feeling a corresponding emotion, as is 
still the case among ourselves with children and artists. In 
persons who are likely to read this book, the habit of steri- 
lizing sensa has probably become so ingrained that a reader 
who tries to go behind it will find it very hard to overcome 
the resistance which hampers him at every move in his 
inquiry. In so far as he succeeds in recognizing what really 
happens in himself, I believe he will find that every sensum 
presents itself to him bearing a peculiar emotional charge, 
and that sensation and emotion, thus related, are twin 


elements in every experience of feeling. In children this is 
clearer than in adults, because they have not yet been 
educated into the conventions of the society into which they 
have been born; in artists clearer than in other adults, 
because in order to be artists they must train themselves in 
that particular to resist these conventions. Those who are 
neither children nor artists can best approach the question 
by considering these two types of case, where they will soon, 
I think, be convinced that sensa never come uncharged with 
emotion ; and this may lead them to further experiment upon 
themselves and so to the conclusion that the emotionless 
sensum, the ‘sensum’ of current philosophy, is not the actual 
sensum as it is experienced, but the product of a process of 

Feeling appears to arise in us independently of all thinking, 
in a part of our nature which exists and functions below the 
level of thought and is unaffected by it. All that we have 
said about it, and all that anybody can ever say about it, is 
of course discovered (or mis-discovered) by the activity of 
thought; but thought seems in this case simply to discover 
what was there independently of it, almost as if we were 
thinking about the anatomical structure and functioning of 
our body, which would no doubt exist and go on whether 
we thought or not. Whether this is really so is not a very 
easy question to decide. For the present, we must be con- 
tent with the provisional answer that it seems so: it seems 
that our sensuous-emotional nature, as feeling creatures, is 
independent of our thinking nature, as rational creatures, 
and constitutes a level of experience below the level of 
thought. In calling it lower, I do not mean that it is rela- 
tively unimportant in the economy of human life, or that it 
constitutes a part of our being which we are entitled to 
despise or belittle. I mean that it has (if I am right in my 
opinion about it) the character of a foundation upon 
which the rational part of our nature is built; laid and con- 
solidated, both in the history of living organisms at large 
and in the history of each human individual, before the 


superstructure of thought was built upon it, and enabling 
that superstructure to function well by being itself in a 
healthy condition. 

This level of experience, at which we merely feel, in the 
double sense of that word, i.e. experience sensations together 
with their peculiar emotional charges, I propose to call the 
psychical level. In using that name I am alluding to the 
traditional distinction between ‘psyche’ or ‘soul’ and ‘spirit’, 
taken as corresponding with my own distinction between 
feeling and thinking; and also to the word psychology, which 
implies a claim that the science so designated has as its proper 
field the study of something properly called psychic: and 
I hold that the proper business of psychology is to investigate 
this level of experience, and not the level which is character- 
ized by thought (see p. 171). I hope I need not apologize 
for using a word which in some readers’ minds may conjure 
up associations with the Society for Psychical Research. 

I shall in this book use the word ‘feeling’ only with 
reference to the psychical level of experience, and not as a 
synonym for emotion generally. This level contains indeed 
a vast variety of emotions; but only those which are the 
emotional charges upon sensa. When thought comes into 
existence (and it is no part of my plan to ask how or why that 
happens) it brings with it new orders of emotions : emotions 
that can arise only in a thinker, and only because he thinks in 
certain ways. These emotions we sometimes call feelings; 
but in this book I shall avoid so calling them, in order not to 
confuse them with the peculiar experiences we enjoy at the 
psychical level. 

§ 3. Thinking 

Feeling provides for thought more than a mere substruc- 
ture upon which it rests, and about which it may concern 
itself if it is so disposed. In its primary form, thought seems 1 
to be exclusively concerned with it, so that feeling affords 
its sole and universal subject-matter. This is not to say that 

1 My reason for saying ‘seems’ and the like, in this section, will be 
explained in the next. 


there may not also be a secondary form of thought; to that 
question we shall return later. At present, we have to 
consider the primary form. 

When we think the thoughts which we express in such 
words as ‘I am tired’, ‘It is hot to-day’, ‘There is a patch of 
blue’, it seems clear that we are thinking about our feelings. 
We are becoming aware, by an act of attention, of certain 
feelings which at the moment we have; and we are going on 
to think of these as standing in certain relations to other 
feelings, remembered as past or imagined as possible. Thus, 
to say ‘It is hot’ is to classify one of my present sensa as 
a temperature-sensum, to compare it with those kinds of 
temperature-sensa to which on the whole I am accustomed, 
and to express the result of the comparison by saying that it 
comes nearer than they to the hotter end of the scale to which 
they all belong. 

The same thing appears to be true, though not so ob- 
viously true, about expressions like ‘That is my hat’. The 
reference to my feelings is here not explicit, but it is per- 
fectly real. When I say that this is my hat, I am stating 
certain relations between certain feelings that I now have 
(for example, if I am merely looking at the hat, certain colour- 
sensa arranged in a certain way) and other feelings which I 
remember having in the past, for example the feelings to 
which I should refer by speaking of the ‘look’ of my hat 
as I remember it hanging on the peg in my own hall ; and 
I am saying that these relations are of such a kind that the 
hat at which I am now looking cannot be any other than 
mine. To describe all these sensa and the relations between 
them would involve almost infinite complications; but that 
is no reason for being sceptical about the fact; so familiar a 
feat as the recognizing of one’s own hat is really a very 
complex achievement, and contains a vast number of 
thoughts, in each of which an error is possible. 

This type of analysis would seem to hold good in the case 
of all the thinking which is called empirical. Even when we 
make statements about the shapes or sizes or distances of 


bodies, we seem in the last resort to be expressing our 
thoughts about the relations between sensa, actual and 
possible. If I say ‘These railway lines which look convergent 
are really parallel’, I am first of all attending to a certain 
pattern of colours which at the moment I see before me; I 
am then selecting out of this pattern certain stripes of light 
colour which I identify as the railway metals ; I next compare 
the pattern made by those stripes with two other kinds of 
pattern, first one made by painting similar stripes parallel to 
one another, and secondly one made by painting them con- 
verging; and lastly, by the admonitory word ‘really’, I am 
warning myself that in spite of the resemblance between what 
I now see and the second of these patterns, I must not think 
that if I travelled along the metals, measuring the distance 
between them from time to time, I should get the same kind 
of result which I get by passing my fingers along the lines of 
that pattern. Once more, the roughest analysis is almost in- 
tolerably complicated, and no analysis, however complicated, 
would be exhaustive; but this proves, not that the analysis is 
mistaken, but that thought is quick. 

Thus our experience of the world in space and time, the 
‘world of nature’ or ‘external’ world, which means not the 
world external to ourselves (for we ourselves are part of it, in 
so far as ‘we’ are our bodies ; and if ‘we’ are our minds, there 
is no sense in speaking of anything as external to them ) but 
the world of things external to one another, the world of 
things scattered in space and time, is an experience partly 
sensuous (strictly, sensuous-emotional) and partly intel- 
lectual: sense being concerned with the colours we see, the 
sounds we hear, and so forth; and thought, with the relations 
between these things. 

But thought itself, as an element in this kind of experience, 
is a thing which admits of being thought about; and here 
arises the secondary form of thought, in which we think not 
about our feelings, detecting relations between one and 
another, but about our thoughts : concerning ourselves with 
the principles according to which the activity of thought in 


its primary form investigates the relations between feelings, 
or (what comes to the same thing) according to which inter- 
relations exist between what, on such occasions, we think. 
The propositions asserted by thought in this secondary 
form may be indifferently described as affirming relations 
between one act of thinking and another, or between one 
thing we think and another. They may be called laws of 
thought, to distinguish them from what are traditionally 
called laws of nature; but they are not laws of a mysterious 
transcendent world quite separate from the world of nature 
or world of sense, they are laws of the second order concern- 
ing that world itself. They are arrived at, and at need 
verified or amended, by appeal not to the sensuous ex- 
perience of seeing a particular colour or hearing a particular 
sound on a particular occasion (an experience which, ob- 
viously, can help us to formulate or verify or amend only 
a law of the first order), but to the intellectual experience of 
thinking in certain ways and finding our thoughts connected 
in a certain type of order. 

This secondary function of thought, or thought of the 
second order, traditionally distinguished from thought of 
the first order as ‘reason’ from ‘understanding’, ‘philosophy’ 
from ‘science’, and so forth, has been the subject of much 
futile mystification. As anybody can see, all knowledge is 
derived from experience; and whatever claims to be know- 
ledge must appeal to experience for its credentials and 
verification. This is as true of metaphysics, theology, or 
pure mathematics as it is of railway time-tables or Wisden’s 
Cricketer's Guide. But the word ‘experience’ has acquired a 
secondary meaning, being sometimes used in philosophical 
jargon for sensuous experience. In that new sense of the 
word it is only thoughts of the first order that are concerned 
with ‘experience ’ 1 and can be tested by appeal to it; thoughts 
of the second order obviously cannot. How, then, are they 
verified or checked; and, indeed, how in the first instance 
are they arrived at? Kant believed that they were known in 
1 This is why thought of the first order is called ‘empirical’. 


some mysterious way ‘independently of experience’. Some 
modern philosophers, rightly rejecting that mystification, 
substitute another: maintaining that a sentence in which 
we express a thought of the second order is not a statement 
about the subject we are ostensibly discussing, but an 
announcement declaring the equivalence of two words or 
phrases in the language in which we propose to discuss it. 
There is no need to criticize such notions in detail. It is 
enough to recognize the equivocation upon which they 
depend: the major premiss that all knowledge is derived 
from experience (where a thought, no less than a sensation, 
is implied to be an experience), the minor premiss that a 
thought is not an experience, and the resulting inference 
that thought of the second order, which in fact is based on 
the experience of thinking, is either knowledge in a different 
and mysterious sense of the word or not knowledge at all. 

§ 4. The Problem of Imagination 

Thought in its primary function was described in the 
preceding section as concerned with the relations between 
sensa. But this description gives rise to a difficulty. A 
sensum is present to our minds only in the corresponding 
act of sensation. It appears as we perform that act, and 
disappears as soon as the act is over. It is ‘given’ in the fact 
of so appearing; having been given, it is at once taken away. 

Now suppose I hold my hand close to the fire for a 
few seconds, and feel a rapidly increasing warmth. At the 
moment when the warmth has increased to a painful heat, 
what I feel is certainly hotter than what I felt a second before. 
But how do I know that it is hotter? The account already 
given implies that I have some means of comparing the 
sensum I feel now with the sensum I felt a second ago. But 
the sensum I felt a second ago is not now present to me; it 
has vanished, carried away by the flux of sensation ; it is no 
longer there to be compared with its successor. In the same 
way, future sensa, possible sensa, other people’s sensa, are 
sensa not present to me here and now, and are therefore not 


things whose relations with each other, or with the sensa 
now present to me, I am in a position to discuss. Hence 
the phrase ‘relations between sensa’ is meaningless unless it 
applies to relations between sensa present to the same person 
at the same time. Nor does even that limitation entirely 
justify the phrase; for it seems probable that the act of 
comparing two simultaneous sensa and considering the 
relation between them must always occupy a period of time 
during which these sensa have passed away, giving place 
to others. The flux of sense, it would seem, destroys any 
sensum before it has lasted long enough to permit of its 
relations being studied. 

This difficulty is concealed, in current philosophical works 
where views are maintained resembling those expressed in 
the earlier part of the foregoing section, by the adoption of 
a vocabulary in which certain characteristic features of sensa 
are implicitly denied. Sensa are called ‘sense-data’, where 
the term ‘data’ means not what the word ‘given’ was just now 
explained as meaning, but something totally different: it 
means given and retained, established or fixed like the 
datum-line of a survey or the data on which a scientific 
hypothesis is erected, and by reference to which it is tested. 
And even where the word used is ‘sensum’, not ‘sense-datum’, 
it is used with the same implication. This implication is of 
course wholly false : it consists in ascribing to sensa exactly 
the opposite of those characteristics which as sensa they 
possess. But the false implication is reinforced, as it were 
hypnotically, by a whole series of other terms. For example, 
our relation to our sensa is described as ‘acquaintance’ with 
them. But you cannot be acquainted with a sensum. To be 
acquainted with a town or a book or a man is to have come 
into contact with it or him on a variety of occasions ; a person 
or thing with which one is acquainted is a recurring feature 
of one’s experience, recognized in the recurrence as identical 
with his or its past self. But sensa neither persist nor recur. 
Redness may recur, and a man may therefore be acquainted 
with it; but not this red patch. Grief may recur, and a man 


may be acquainted with grief; but this feeling of unhappiness 
is uniquely present in this act of feeling it, and has never 
been felt before, however often others like it have been felt. 
Again, the truth of an empirical proposition is said to be 
tested by ‘appealing’ to sensa, that is, by finding out whether 
in certain circumstances those sensa present themselves to 
us which would present themselves if the proposition were 
true ; but this implies that I can now know what certain sensa, 
not present to me, would be like if they were present to me, 
and can say ‘These are, or are not, the sensa I expected’, 
comparing sensa which I now have with some idea of them 
which I framed in advance of having them; and it should be 
explained how this is possible. 

We are confronted with two alternatives. Either the 
people who use all this language (including ourselves in the 
preceding section) are talking the most complete imaginable 
nonsense, or else they are systematically misusing the word 
‘ser.sum’ and all its cognates; using it to mean not the 
momentary and evanescent colours, sounds, scents, and the 
rest which in sensation we actually ‘feel’, but something 
different which these writers mistake or substitute for them. 
In order to impute an error not too gross to be plausible, 
let us suppose that there are these other things, and that in 
certain ways they are very much like sensa, but differ from 
sensa chiefly in not being wholly fluid and evanescent; so that 
any one of them may be retained in the mind as an object of 
attention after the moment of sensation is past, or anticipated 
before it occurs. 

If there is such a class of entities as these, its members are 
obviously not sensa, and the activity correlative to them is 
not sensation ; but they may very well be the things which 
are called sensa in the philosophies to which I have referred, 
and by discovering what kind of things they really are we 
may be able to reinterpret those philosophies in such a way 
as to rescue them from the imputation of being sheerly 

This will be the task of the next two chapters. I shall there 


try to show that there are such things, to be identified with 
what Hume (whose account of them I shall take as my 
starting-point) called ‘ideas’ as distinct from ‘impressions’. 
I shall try to show that there is a special activity of mind 
correlative to them, and that this is what we generally call 
imagination, as distinct from sensation on the one hand and 
intellect on the other. This activity, the 9avTaaia without 
which, according to Aristotle, intellection is impossible, the 
‘blind but indispensable faculty’ which, according to Kant, 
forms the link between sensation and understanding, deserves 
in my opinion a more thorough study than it has yet received, 
both for its own sake (in which aspect it provides, as I shall 
later argue, the basis for a theory of the aesthetic experience) 
and for the sake of its place in the general structure of 
experience as a whole, as the point at which the activity of 
thought makes contact with the merely psychic life of feeling. 

Note to p. 164: Psychology , true and false . — It follows from the distinction 
stated on p. 157 that whereas, in order to study the nature of feeling, it is 
necessary to ascertain what persons who feel are actually doing, in order to 
study the nature of thinking it is necessary to ascertain both what persons who 
think are actually doing and also whether what they are doing is a success or a 
failure. Thus a science of feeling must be ‘empirical’ (i.e. devoted to ascertain- 
ing and classifying ‘facts’ or things susceptible of observation), but a science of 
thought must be ‘normative’, or (as I prefer to call it) ‘criteriological’, i.e. con- 
cerned not only with the ‘facts’ of thought but also with the ‘criteria’ or standards 
which thought imposes on itself. ‘Criteriological’ sciences, e.g. logic, ethics, 
have long been accepted as giving the correct approach to the study of thought. 
In the sixteenth century the name ‘psychology’ was invented to designate an 
‘empirical’ science of feeling. In the nineteenth century the idea got about that 
psychology could not merely supplement the old ‘criteriological’ sciences by 
providing a valid approach to the study of feeling, but could replace them by 
providing an up-to-date and ‘scientific’ approach to the study of thought. Owing 
to this misconception there are now in existence two things called ‘psychology’: 
a valid and important ‘empirical’ science (both theoretical and applied) of 
feeling, and a pseudo-science of thought, falsely professing to deal ‘empirically’ 
with things which, as forms of thought, can be dealt with only ‘criteriologically’. 
Its vast and rapidly-growing literature shows all the familiar marks of a pseudo- 
science (self-contradiction; the enunciation of ‘discoveries’ which are really 
platitudes; the appeal to facts which are irrelevant to the problems under dis- 
cussion ; the evasion of criticism on the plea that ‘the science is in its infancy’, 
See.) ; it is completely discredited among those (historians, &c.) whose business 
is to study human thought in its actuality; and I make no apology for ignoring 
and contradicting, in this book and elsewhere, the errors taught by its exponents. 


§ i. Terminology 

It will be best, before directly attacking the problem raised 
at the end of the preceding chapter, to consider a distinction 
which might be thought to offer a safe approach to the theory 
of imagination. This is the common-sense distinction be- 
tween, for example, ‘really seeing’ a patch of colour and 
‘imagining’ one. I raise my head, look out of the window, 
and ‘see’ an expanse of green grass. I shut my eyes and, with 
a conscious effort, ‘imagine’ the same green expanse, or at 
any rate a green expanse very much like it. On the first 
occasion, the colour presents itself to me when I am looking 
at something that is ‘really there’; on the second, it is a 
‘figment’ of my imagination, which somehow generates it 
in the absence of these conditions. 

This common-sense distinction, when we examine it, will 
be found very obscure; and when at last we are able to say 
what it means, this will be something very different from 
what at first sight it seems to mean. The examination will be 
troublesome and perhaps tedious, but fruitful ; for the com- 
mon-sense distinction expresses (or, one might almost as 
well say, conceals) a truth of great importance, which we 
should never clearly understand if we swallowed the common- 
sense view uncritically; still less, perhaps, if we impatiently 
dismissed it as nonsense. 

We must begin by choosing a terminology in which the 
common-sense distinction can be easily and not too un- 
naturally expressed. The terminologies actually in use fall 
into two groups according as it is desired to emphasize the 
similarity between the seen and imagined colours (or the 
acts of seeing and imagining them), or the difference. To 
the first class belong those in which ‘really seeing’ and 
‘imagining’ are both called sensation, and what we ‘really 



see’ and ‘imagine’ are indifferently called sensa or sense-data. 
In order to distinguish between the two cases, qualifications 
must then be added: for example, a distinction will be made 
between veridical and illusory sensa. 

In the second type, the words ‘sensation’ and ‘sensum’ 
are confined to the case in which we ‘really see’, and other 
words are used for the case in which we ‘imagine’; for ex- 
ample, that which we imagine is called an image. Thus we 
get a neat verbal parallelism between sensing a sensum and 
imagining an image; but the difficulty then is to find a pair 
of generic terms, one to cover both sensing and imagining, 
the other to cover both sensa and images; and to show how 
these two pairs of specific terms are related to each other and 
to their respective genera. 

My own terminology in this chapter will be as follows. 
As a generic term to cover both the act of ‘really seeing’ 
and the act of ‘imagining’, I shall use the word ‘sensation’. 
When I need a verb, I shall use the verb ‘to sense’. 

That which we sense I shall call a ‘sensum’. The various 
species of sensation I shall call ‘seeing’, ‘hearing’, ‘smelling’, 
&c., and the corresponding species of sensa ‘colours’, 
‘sounds’, ‘scents’, &c.; in every case irrespective of the 
distinction between the two cases distinguished at the 
beginning of this chapter. 

As specific names for those two cases I shall use the terms 
‘real sensation’ (with the verb ‘really sense’, if it is needed), 
and ‘imagination’ (with the verb ‘imagine’). The species of 
real sensation I shall call ‘really seeing’, ‘really hearing’, &c. 
That which we really sense I shall call a ‘real sensum’, and 
its species ‘real colours’, ‘real sounds’, & c. That which we 
imagine I shall call an ‘imaginary sensum’; its species, 
‘imaginary colours’, ‘imaginary sounds’, &c. 

It may possibly be worth while to forestall a misunder- 
standing. A reader, bearing in mind such distinctions as 
that between real diamonds and imitation diamonds, may 
fancy that something ex hypothesi different from real sensation 
cannot be a kind of sensation, as I have been professing, but 

4436 N 


must be something different from sensation, as paste is 
different from diamond. But I am not using the word ‘real’ 
in this way. I am using it as it is used in the phrase ‘real 
property’, which does not imply that personal property is 
property falsely so called, but that the kind of property called 
real is property in rebus , where res has the meaning of a 
physical thing. 

My reason for adopting this terminology is, chiefly, that 
it stands nearer than any other to everyday speech, and there- 
fore begs fewer questions. The philosopher who tries to 
‘speak with the vulgar and think with the learned’ has this 
advantage over one who adopts an elaborate technical 
vocabulary: that the use of a special ‘philosophical language’ 
commits the user, possibly even against his will, to accepting 
the philosophical doctrines which it has been designed to 
express, so that these doctrines are surreptitiously and 
dogmatically foisted upon every disputant who will consent 
to use the language : whereas, if the language of every day is 
used, problems can be stated in a way which does not com- 
mit us in advance to a particular solution. This gives the 
user of common speech an advantage, if what he wants to do 
is to keep the discussion open and above-board and to get at 
the truth. For a philosopher whose aim is not truth but 
victory it is of course a disadvantage; he would be wiser to 
insist at the start upon using a terminology so designed that 
all statements couched in it assume the contentions he is 
anxious to prove. And this in effect is what those philo- 
sophers are doing who profess themselves unable to grasp 
the meaning of this or that statement until it has been 
translated into their own terminology. To insist that every 
conversation shall be conducted in one’s own language is 
in men of the world only bad manners; in philosophers it is 
sophistry as well. 

§ 2. History of the Problem: Descartes to Locke 

The historical background of the problem here to be 
discussed extends, so far as we need consider it, from Des- 


cartes to Kant. The main constructive efforts of medieval 
philosophy had been based on assuming that sensation in 
general gives us real acquaintance with the real world; but 
this assumption was undermined by the sceptics of the 
sixteenth century, and the problem of distinguishing real 
sensation from imagination, and thus (without ceasing to 
experience the latter) guarding against the illusions which 
arise from mistaking the one for the other, was placed in the 
forefront of philosophical thought by Descartes. 

Descartes, acquiescing to that extent in the views of the 
sceptics, admitted that by direct inspection there was no 
way of deciding whether he was really sitting in front of the 
fire or only dreaming that he was sitting in front of the fire: 
in our terminology, of distinguishing either between real 
sensa and the corresponding imaginary sensa, or between real 
sensation and the corresponding imagination. This is the 
point of Descartes’s doctrine concerning the deceitfulness or 
untrustworthiness of the senses. He did not deny that there 
was such a thing as real sensation ; what he denied was that 
we could distinguish it by any test short of mathematical 
reasoning from imagination; and this denial he made the 
foundation of his own philosophy, proving as it did that 
a system based on the assumption that real sensation could 
be thus distinguished from imagination was vicious from 
the beginning. 

Hobbes accepted the same position and stated it, with his 
usual trenchancy, in a more downright form. Granted that 
there is no way of telling real sensation from imagination by 
direct inspection, and that what we cannot know about them 
by that method we cannot know at all, since immediacy is 
an essential feature of our sensuous experience (so he seems 
to argue), we had better deny the distinction outright, and 
use the two terms indifferently, as synonyms. That, at any 
rate, is the view he adopts in the first chapter of Leviathan. 
Sensa, he remarks, are ‘fancy, the same waking that sleeping 
. . . so that sense in all cases is nothing else but original 


Spinoza agrees rather with Hobbes than with Descartes, 
and accepts it as a principle that all sensation is imagination, 
so that imaginatio becomes his regular term for sensation 
( "Ethics , ii. xvii, scholium). Imaginatio is for him not a mode 
of thought, and in speaking of it he never uses the words 
idea or percipere , which with him invariably refer to opera- 
tions of the intellect; imagination is not an activity but a 
passivity, and consequently imaginations, just as they con- 
tain no truth, ‘contain no error’ (loc. cit.). 

Leibniz is of the same opinion. For him, sensa do indeed 
deserve the name of idea; but they are ideas of a peculiar 
kind, ideas essentially confused, which if they could be 
brought to a state of distinctness would lose their sensuous 
character and turn into thoughts. In their native sensuous- 
ness, therefore, they are a kind of dreams or phantoms; not 
some of them only, but all of them. It is only with Locke 
(Essay, n. xxx) that an attempt is made to distinguish ‘real 
ideas’ from ‘fantastical’. But this is not to say that Locke 
distinguishes real from imaginary sensa. That he does not 
do any more than Hobbes and the Cartesians, with whom 
he agrees that no such distinction exists, though he differs 
from them as to the reason: they say that all sensa are 
imaginary, he says that all are real : with his own italics, ‘our 
simple Ideas are all real. The only ideas he will allow to be 
fantastical are certain complex ideas which we form at will by 
arbitrarily combining simple ones. 

The conception of all sensa as real met with no success at 
the hands of his followers; as we shall see, Berkeley and 
Hume thought it a matter of urgency to disown it. It has 
been revived by the neo-realists of our own day; in the case 
of Professor Alexander, with conscious indebtedness to its 
author; and it is an idea which well deserves revival as a 
bold piece of radical empiricism. But Locke was not a radical 
empiricist; he was a common-sense philosopher who entirely 
believed in the world of bodies as described by Newton; 
and consequently this conception could not be made to 
harmonize with the setting in which he placed it. As it 


stands in his text, it is an outrageous sophism. Real ideas 
he defines as ‘such as have a conformity with the real Being 
and Existence of things, or with their Archetypes’. But 
when he goes on to say that simple ideas are all real because 
they ‘answer and agree to those powers of things which 
produce them in our Minds’, he has forgotten this; he is 
treating the proposition that sensa are caused in us by the 
action of external bodies (the same proposition which, to 
Hobbes and the Cartesians, had proved them imaginary) as 
equivalent to the proposition that they are real; in other 
words, he is substituting, as a definition of ‘reality’, the rela- 
tion of effect to cause for the relation of ectype to archetype. 

But there is also in Locke the germ of a quite different 
method for distinguishing real ideas from fantastical. A 
fantastical idea he describes as one which the mind ‘makes 
to itself’. Complex ideas are sometimes fantastical, because 
they are sometimes ‘voluntary combinations’ of simple ones, 
in which case ‘the Mind of Man uses some kind of Liberty’ 
in forming them. Simple ideas can never be fantastical, 
because they can never be ‘Fictions at Pleasure’; the mind 
‘can make to itself no simple Idea’. Now Locke does not 
seem to have realized the fact, but these statements made it 
possible for him to give an account of the way in which we 
distinguish real from fantastical ideas without any reference 
to their originals or lack of original. All he had to do was to 
assume that our powers of what he calls reflection enable us 
to distinguish a voluntary action from an involuntary passio : 
that we can tell by introspection when we are acting and 
when we are being acted upon. If so, introspection will 
serve by itself to distinguish real from imaginary sensa. It 
will not, of course, detect any difference between the sensa 
themselves, for sensa are not present to introspection, but 
only to sensation; but it will detect a difference between the 
activities by which we sense them. In the one case, the 
activity will be introspectively recognized as voluntary; in 
the other, as involuntary: not an actio but a passio. 

This ‘introspection theory’ (as I shall call it) of the distinc- 


tion between real sensation and imagination was not deve- 
loped by Locke, though any intelligent reader could have 
developed it from his text, and at least one extremely in- 
telligent reader did so. 

§ 3. Berkeley: the Introspection Theory 

For Berkeley ‘ideas of Sense’ are distinct from ‘ideas of 
Imagination’ ( Principles of Human Knowledge , i, § 30). The 
terms ate borrowed from Malebran che’s Recherche de la- 
Verite\ but Malebranche is content to state the difference 
physiologically, explaining that an idea, which he regards 
as simply a felt disturbance of our organism, may be due 
either to the impact of an external body or to a self-initiated 
change in the organism itself. For Berkeley, this appeal to 
physiology is a mere evasion. The problem is not to invent 
a theory accounting for the origin of two different kinds of 
idea; it is to explain how in point of fact people know, before 
they come to invent any such theory, to which kind a given 
idea belongs. The distinction, therefore, must be visible to 
ordinary people and verifiable by them. That is to say, it 
must be stated in terms of ideas ; no purpose is served by 
stating it in terms of the relation between ideas and the 
human organism or in general the physical world. So 
Berkeley attempts to state it purely in terms of ideas ; and 
lays down the proposition that ‘the ideas of Sense are more 
strong, lively, and distinct than those of the Imagination’. 

This might mean either of two things. It might refer to 
a distinction in something called ‘strength’ or ‘liveliness’ 
between real and imaginary sensa; or it might refer to 
a distinction (necessarily of a quite different kind, though 
called by the same name) between the act of real sensation 
and the act of imagination. In the first case it could hardly 
mean anything except that a real sound (for instance) is 
louder than an imaginary one; and that this difference in 
audible quality is all we mean when we call them respectively 
real and imaginary. In the second case it would mean that 
a real sound forces itself upon us in a way in which an 


imaginary one does not; a real sound is heard whether we 
will or no, whereas an imaginary one can be summoned up, 
banished, or replaced by another at will. Here the difference 
is not between the sounds, but between the experiences of 
hearing them; it is a difference appreciable not by the 
ear, but by the reflective or introspective consciousness in 
which we are aware of these experiences. It is the second of 
these positions that Berkeley is maintaining, and so attentive 
a student of Locke no doubt arrived at it from a study of the 
passage quoted above. 

But it is not a tenable position. The fact that I cannot 
evoke or control certain ideas at will is according to this 
doctrine more than an infallible sign of their being real as 
distinct from imaginary; it is what we mean by calling them 
real as distinct from imaginary. There are not two facts with 
a relation between them, there is one fact. But this is not 
true. There are two different facts, which commonly no 
doubt are united, but can on occasion occur separately. 
The extreme case is the hallucination of mental disease, where 
the patient is obsessed by imaginary sights, sounds, and the 
like, which he is altogether unable to control; but even in 
the healthiest organism the same thing is observable. A 
man who has been horrified by certain sights and sounds 
cannot for some time banish them from his mind; he con- 
tinues to imagine the crash, the blood, the cries, for all his 
efforts to stop. That, on Berkeley’s principle, should be 
proof that he is not imagining them but really seeing them. 
In fact it only proves that the extent to which we can control 
our imagination by a deliberate act of will is very limited. 

§ 4. Berkeley: the Relation Theory 

As if dissatisfied with this theory of the distinction, 
Berkeley at once proceeds to state another, which I shall call 
the relation theory. Ideas of sense ‘have likewise a steadiness, 
order, and coherence, and are not excited at random, . . . but 
in a regular train or series. . . . Now the set rules, or estab- 
lished methods, wherein the Mind we depend on excites in 


us the ideas of Sense, are called the law of Nature, and these 

we learn by experience.’ 

This may be paraphrased as follows. Even if there is no 
such difference between a real sensation and an imagination, 
considered by themselves, as might be stated by calling the 
one involuntary and the other voluntary, there is yet a way 
in which real and imaginary sensa can be distinguished 
without appealing to any supposed world of bodies : namely, 
by considering the relation in which each of them stands to 
other sensa. The laws of nature are (Berkeley tells us) not 
laws concerning the relations between bodies or bodily 
movements or bodily forces, but laws concerning the rela- 
tions between sensa. To formulate them in terms of body 
may be convenient, because it is brief; but it is only a short- 
hand method of putting what, if expressed in full, would 
turn out to be a statement about the ways in which we have 
found certain sensa to be related to certain others, and in 
which we expect like sensa to be related in the future. If we 
say that matter is indestructible, we mean something like 
this: if at one time a person has certain sensa of sight and 
touch, such as are ordinarily referred to by saying that he 
sees a stone lying in a certain place, then if he continues to 
watch and to touch he will have other sensa of the kind 
which we describe by saying either (a) that the stone is still 
there, or (b) that it is moving away, or (c) that it is breaking 
up; whereas, if he has the sensa we should describe by saying 
that the stone has disappeared, it is open to some one to put 
himself in such a position that he will have further sensa 
whose relation to these others will be described by saying 
that he now knows where it has gone to. As our great 
modern Berkeleian, Lord Russell, puts it, the programme 
is to resolve propositions about bodies into propositions 
about sense-data. 

Now it is Berkeley’s contention that the laws of nature are 
obeyed by ‘ideas of Sense’ and not by ‘ideas of Imagination’. 
The former, as Professor Price admirably expresses it, 
belong to ‘families’ or groups of sensa connected by fixed 


rules determining (for example) what appearance will be 
presented by a body two feet away to an eye which from 
three feet away sees it in such and such a manner; and again, 
how a body so appearing to the eye will feel when touched 
by the hand. ‘Ideas of Imagination’, on the contrary, 
Berkeley thinks to be what Price, following Broad, calls 
‘wild’ : they belong to no family; there are no rules according 
to which they are linked up with other ideas, similar or 

This doctrine seems true enough at first sight. Dusk is 
coming on; I am writing in the window; and glancing back 
over my shoulder I see something in a darkened corner of 
the room which looks like a black animal crouching there. 
Did I really see an animal, or was I imagining it? The 
procedure which I use in order to answer my question seems 
to be exactly what Berkeley is suggesting. I begin by appeal- 
ing to the ‘laws of Nature’. If there was really an animal 
there, either it will stay there or it will go away. I turn on 
the light and search the place where I saw it. There is no 
animal there. I search the rest of the room, with the same 
result. The door is shut, and there is no nook in which it may 
be hiding, or hole through which it may have escaped. I con- 
clude that it was not a real animal but an imaginary one, or 
in other words that I was not really seeing but imagining. 

That is no doubt very much how we proceed. But it does 
not really bear out Berkeley’s contention. For the imaginary 
animal does not really disobey the laws of nature. It may 
disobey some of them, but it obeys others. It is therefore 
not ‘wild’ ; it belongs to a family, though not the family to 
which at first we tried to refer it. There is what Berkeley 
himself calls order about its appearance. My black animal 
has come before; it comes in the dusk; it comes when I am 
tired; it comes bringing a slight but perceptible feeling of 
fear to a person who, as a little boy, was frightened of the 
dark; in short, though it does not belong to a family which 
I can describe in physical terms, it plainly does belong to one 
describable in psychological. And Berkeley seems to be 


maintaining that whereas the groups of sensa which would 
ordinarily be called bodies have pedigrees and obey laws, 
those which would ordinarily be called minds have none, and 
conduct themselves in an absolutely lawless (as he calls it, 
random) manner. But this will not convince any one to-day. 
No one is entirely satisfied with the state of psychological 
science; but no one would push his dissatisfaction so far as 
to contend that the events we call psychological occur 
without any order or regularity at all. 

Can we restate Berkeley’s distinction in an improved form 
by suggesting that ‘ideas of Sense’ or real sensa are interre- 
lated according to the laws of physics, and ‘ideas of Imagina- 
tion’ or imaginary sensa according to those of psychology? 
No; there are good reasons against that. In the first place, 
the two sets of laws cannot be so thoroughly disentangled 
from each other. Real sensa obey psychological laws no less 
than imaginary ones ; and the question whether psychology 
may not in the end be reducible to physics is still sub judice. 
Secondly, if both sets of laws are learnt by experience, it 
follows that we can only know what the laws of physics are 
by studying our real sensa, and what the laws of psychology 
are by studying our imaginary sensa. We cannot, therefore, 
begin to ascertain what laws there are, of either kind, unless 
we can first distinguish with certainty between the different 
kinds of ‘ideas’, as we must distinguish ideas of sight from 
ideas of hearing before we can begin to build up the sciences 
of optics and acoustics. If we need rules in order to distin- 
guish real sensa from imaginary ones, it cannot be sensation, 
the undistinguished mixture of real sensation and imagina- 
tion, that teaches us those rules. And this argument applies 
equally against the view that imaginary sensa obey laws of their 
own, and the view that they are completely wild. This is the 
starting-point of Kant’s view, to which we shall come later. 

§ 5. Hume 

It was no doubt this difficulty which led Hume, when he 
reconsidered the same problem, to drop Berkeley’s relation 


theory and adopt his introspection theory. Hume attached 
great importance to this theory, and expounds it in the open- 
ing sentences of his Treatise of Human Nature. This was 
evidently because, setting himself the task of showing how 
all our knowledge is derived from what Berkeley called ideas 
of sense and what he himself called ‘impressions’, he rightly 
took it for granted that the whole derivation would be vitiated 
unless these could be distinguished from ideas of imagina- 
tion, which he called ‘ideas’. His first task, therefore, was to 
place this distinction on a firm basis. But how? Not in 
Locke’s manner, by referring back from ideas them- 
selves to their ‘originals’ or ‘archetypes’, the bodies which 
in the one case cause them and in the other do not. 
Berkeley’s criticism had shown that to be impossible. The 
distinction must be a distinction among ideas as such. But 
of Berkeley’s tw r o theories, the second was unworkable be- 
cause it reversed the relation between distinguishing ideas of 
sense from ideas of imagination and ascertaining the laws 
of nature. The distinction must come first; only when it 
is complete can we ascertain what the laws of nature 
are. The distinction must therefore depend on a difference, 
perceptible by direct inspection, between the two types of 

Thus Hume (unless I misunderstand the whole drift of 
his thought) arrived at his own statement of the introspec- 
tion theory, as set forth in the first two sentences of his 
Treatise. ‘All the perceptions of the human mind resolve 
themselves into two distinct kinds, which I shall call im- 
pressions and ideas. The difference betwixt these consists 
in the degrees of force and liveliness, with which they strike 
upon the mind, and make their way into our thought or 
consciousness.’ His meaning here is the same as that which 
we have found Berkeley expressing in the words ‘more 
strong, lively, and distinct’. He does not mean that, if all 
possible sensa of light, for example, are arranged in a scale 
of intensity from a dazzling brilliance at one end to invisibility 
at the other, there is a point on this scale above which all the 


brighter sensa are real sensa, while the dimmer ones below 
it are imaginary. The passage in which he makes this clear 
is that in which he says ‘that idea of red, which we form in 
the dark, and that impression which strikes our eyes in 
sunshine, differ only in degree, not in nature’. A difference 
in brightness or saturation would obviously be a difference 
in nature. He refers to a difference not among sensa but 
among sensations. When he speaks of the superior force or 
liveliness of an impression he means that the act or state of 
‘perceiving’ an ‘impression’ is one which we find upon 
reflection and experiment to be forced upon us even against 
our will; by the ‘faintness’ of an ‘idea’ he refers to the fact 
(or supposed fact) that perceptions of this kind have not 
sufficient vigour to force themselves upon us without our 
consent, but are subservient to our command. In short, the 
distinction between real sensation and imagination is resolved 
into the distinction between our inability and our ability of 
set purpose to control, excite, suppress, or modify our 
sensory experiences. 

Hume certainly does not state this doctrine as clearly as 
one might wish. In particular, he makes admissions which 
contradict it, without attempting to remove the contradic- 
tion. ‘In sleep, in a fever, in madness, or in any very violent 
emotions of soul’, he correctly observes that our ideas conform 
to the definition he has given of impressions; but he does 
not draw either of the possible inferences : that they really 
are impressions, or that his definition was faulty. He excuses 
himself by pleading that these cases are exceptional; not 
noticing that this implies an appeal to the alternative criterion 
which he has rejected, namely that of the relation in which 
our various experiences stand to each other. The brilliancy 
of a sensum of light is a quality immediately given (to what 
Locke called sensation) in the sensum itself; its force or 
liveliness is a quality of the activity which Hume calls 
perceiving it, immediately given as what Locke calls an idea 
of reflection in our awareness of that activity; but excep- 
tionalness is something we can only attribute to it when we 


try to think of it as an instance of a rule determining the 
relations which our sensa must bear to one another if 
they are to be regarded as real sensa. Thus the attempt 
to derive all knowledge from sensation has broken down on 
the very first page: principles of the kind which Hume 
proposes to build upon experience have been surreptitiously 
appealed to at the outset, in order to discriminate those parts 
of experience which will offer them a secure foundation from 
those which will not. 

And what if the appeal be allowed ? Granted that cases of 
this kind are really exceptional, which modern psychologists 
would hesitate to grant, yet they are present as genuine facts 
in the body of human experience. The ‘science of Man’, 
for which Hume in his Introduction has claimed such a 
dominant position at the head of all the sciences, is surely 
not so unscientific as to content itself with dismissing whole 
classes of well-attested facts as having no value for the study 
of its subject, merely because they are less common than 
others. The exception ‘proves’ the rule by showing whether 
the rule is equal to the task of explaining it; if it is not, it is 
proved false. But Hume’s refusal to extend so familiar a 
principle of method to the science of human nature was not 
a mere freak on his part; it followed from a general theory, 
assumed by most modern pre-Kantian philosophers, that 
you cannot afford to think accurately about human nature, 
because human nature, owing to the element of freedom in 
it, is an indeterminate thing, acting at random, so that even 
the truest statements about it are only true (as Aristotle said 
about the statements of ethical science) ‘for the most part’, 
and exceptions do not matter. It was Kant who first showed 
that progress in the science of human nature must come, like 
progress in any other science, by taking exceptions seriously 
and fastening upon the unusual case (that, for example, 
of the man who does good to others not in order to win 
their good opinion, and not because he enjoys doing it, but 
simply because he thinks it his duty) as the peculiarly 
instructive one. 


§ 6. Kant 

By these more rigorous principles of method, Kant was 
prevented from accepting a generalization so riddled with 
exceptions as that of Hume. On Kant’s view as to the 
structure of experience, if there is any distinction between 
real and imaginary sensa, it cannot lie in a difference of ‘force 
and liveliness’, that is, in the involuntary or voluntary 
character of the acts by which we ‘perceive’ them. It must 
lie elsewhere; and at first sight Kant seems in effect to 
restate Berkeley’s second position, and to place the distinc- 
tion in the way in which a given sensum is related to others. 
Reality, according to him, is a category of the understanding, 
and understanding is thought in its primary function, as 
concerned with the relations between sensa. 

But Kant is not in fact returning to Berkeley. According 
to Berkeley, the ‘laws of nature’ are without exception 
learned from ‘experience’; that is, they are all empirical laws, 
laws of the first order, discovered and verified by noting the 
relations between sensa. Hume tentatively, and Kant more 
explicitly, attacked this doctrine, and showed that these 
first-order laws implied second-order laws, which Kant called 
‘principles of the understanding’. Now, relatively to the 
first-order laws of nature, so far as they have been ascertained 
at any given moment in the history of scientific discovery, 
this or that sensum may very well be ‘wild’, in the sense that 
the laws as yet known give no account of its place in any 
family. But this cannot be the case relatively to laws of the 
second order. It is a principle of the understanding that 
every event must have a cause. No event that comes under 
our notice can escape this principle. The furthest length to 
which it can go towards wildness in that direction is a failure 
on our part to discover what, in particular, its cause is. 

Thus Kant’s discovery of second-order laws involves 
the discovery that there are no wild sensa. At the same time, 
it enables him to explain what we mean when we say that 
wild sensa exist. We are saying that certain sensa, though 


in the light of the second-order laws we know that they 
must admit of interpretation, have not yet been actually 
interpreted, and perhaps cannot be interpreted except 
through the discovery of first-order laws as yet unknown 
to us. 

The theory of imagination thus passes through three 
distinct stages from Descartes to Kant. (1) To most of the 
seventeenth-century philosophers it seemed clear that all 
sensation is simply imagination. The common-sense distinc- 
tion was simply wiped out, and the existence of anything 
which could be called real sensation was denied. It was 
admitted that our sensa are caused by the action upon our 
bodies of other bodies (of whose existence we were assured 
not, of course, by sensation but by thought), but the fact 
that imagination has an external cause does not make it any 
the less imagination. (2) The English empiricists tried to 
restate the common-sense distinction, but were unable to 
reach an agreement : nor did any one of them put forward a 
theory which could actually (even if itself defensible) be 
regarded as a defence of that distinction: for none of their 
theories quite tallied with it. (3) Kant (with important help 
from Leibniz and Hume) approached the problem along a 
new line. Instead of trying to conceive real sensa and imagin- 
ary sensa as two co-ordinate species of the same genus, the 
conception which, in spite of the empiricists’ attempt to 
revive it, had been once for all refuted by the Cartesians, he 
conceived the difference between them as a difference of 
degree. 1 For him, a real sensum can only mean one which 
has undergone interpretation by the understanding, which 
alone has the power to confer the title real; an imaginary 
sensum will then mean one which has not yet undergone that 

1 Here and elsewhere I use this word in the traditional philosophical sense, 
where differences of degree are understood as involving differences of kind ; 
as in Locke’s ‘three degrees of knowledge’, where each ‘degree’ is at once a 
fuller realization of the essence of knowledge than the one below (more 
certain, less liable to error) and also a fresh kind of knowledge. See Essay on 
Philosophical Method, pp. 54-5, 69-77. 



§ 7. 1 Illusory Sens a' 

The common-sense distinction between real and imaginary 
sensa, although flatly denied by the Cartesians, retains a 
certain hold on our thought. When common sense makes 
a distinction, philosophy is well advised to think it possible 
that a distinction of some kind exists ; but is certainly not 
obliged to assume that the account of it given by common 
sense is correct. 

If there is anything in the view which we have found im- 
plied by Kant, the common-sense distinction can be justified; 
but it cannot be a distinction between two classes of sensa. 
This, as we have seen, was admitted even by the English 
empiricists; but it is not admitted by common sense; and, 
as we are not bound by the findings of any philosophical 
school, we must now consider the question directly. 

We can do this best by beginning with an analysis of 
illusory sensa. At first sight, it would seem a satisfactory 
development of the common-sense view to say that, sensa 
being in themselves of two kinds, real and imaginary, an 
illusory sensum is an imaginary one mistaken for a real. 
If I dream that I am looking at sea, sky, and mountains, the 
colours I see are imaginary colours, but in so far as the 
dream contains an element of illusion I take them for real 
ones. It is this error that converts imaginary sensa into 
illusory. There is thus no special class of illusory sensa. 
There is nothing special in these colours, in virtue of which 
they are illusory; to describe them as illusory is only to say 
that an error has been made about them. In order to salve 
our pride as thinkers, we may pretend that the error was due 
to them, not to ourselves, and accuse them of somehow 
forcing us to make it. But this is hypocrisy. There can be 
nothing of such a kind as to force a person who thinks about 
it into error. And if there were, the error could never be 
corrected, so that we should never be able to call the thing 

But imaginary sensa are not the only ones about which 


mistakes are made. Mistakes of the same general kind are 
made about real sensa, especially if they present themselves 
to us in unfamiliar circumstances. When a child or savage 
(or for that matter a dog or cat) first sees his face in a glass, 
he is very likely to be deceived, by the resemblance between 
what he now sees and another person’s face seen through a 
frame or opening, into thinking that he is looking at a face 
situated behind the plane of the mirror. Actually he is 
looking at his own face, situated as usual on the front side 
of his head. He is looking at it under conditions which are 
unfamiliar to him, but are not at all unfamiliar to myself, 
who in shaving have no difficulty about correlating what I 
see in the glass with what I feel in using razor and brush. 
But the face as seen in the glass is just as illusory to the child 
or savage as were the sea, sky, or mountains to me in my 

We were wrong, therefore, to define illusory sensa as 
imaginary sensa which we mistake for real ones. Illusory 
sensa can be defined without referring to the distinction 
between imaginary and real. Any sensum is illusory in so 
far as we make an error about it. This error does not consist 
in mistaking it for a different sensum. Indeed, it is not easy 
to see how that would be possible. All that there can ever 
be in a sensum is directly present to us in the act of sensation. 
We may be mistaken in believing that another person in our 
circumstances would have a similar one ; but we cannot, in 
seeing a red patch, mistake it for a blue one. The mistakes 
we make about our sensa are mistakes about their relations 
with other sensa, possible or expected. The child or savage 
is not mistaken, when he looks at the glass, in thinking that 
he sees a certain pattern of colours; he is not mistaken in 
thinking that it resembles what he sees when he looks at 
some one else’s face two feet away ; his mistake lies in thinking 
that because of these facts he can touch the face he sees by 
feeling behind the glass. Further experience will teach him 
that in order to touch it he must feel in front of the glass. 
That experience is called learning about reflections, and is an 

4436 0 


example of what Berkeley calls learning the laws of nature 

by experience. 

An illusory sensum, then, is simply a sensum as to which 
we make mistakes about the relation in which it stands to 
other sensa. The conception of illusion disappears, resolved 
into the conception of error. 

§ 8. ‘ Appearances' and * Images' 

There are certain other conceptions which must be treated 
in a similar way. One of these is the conception of appear- 

We say that a distant man ‘looks’ smaller than one close 
at hand, or that railway lines ‘look’ convergent, although 
the person to whom they so appear knows very well that the 
two men are of the same height and that the rails are parallel. 
This is an everyday and untechnical way of speaking. Some 
philosophers or psychologists would ‘explain’ it by saying 
that we must distinguish men, or railway lines, from things 
they call ‘appearances’ of men or railway lines; and that when 
we say a distant man looks smaller than one close at hand, 
although the two are really the same size, we mean that the 
appearance of the distant man is smaller than that of the 
man close at hand, though the two men themselves are of 
the same size. In the case of the railway lines, they will say 
that the lines themselves are parallel, but their appearances 

If this is mere perversity in speech, it is pardonable, 
though undesirable. But if it is theory, we must have no 
truce with it. If there were really such an ‘appearance’ 
directly given in sensation, this would constitute, as it were, 
an inducement or temptation in sensation itself for us to 
make a certain error; and this is impossible, for just as no 
sensation can force us to make a mistake about it, so none 
can persuade or tempt us to do the same. What we mean 
when we say that the distant man looks smaller, or that the 
rails look convergent, was explained in the preceding chapter 
(p. 1 66 ). Briefly, it comes to this: that we are warning our- 


selves or others against the error of thinking that because 
the pattern of colours we now see resembles the patterns 
we have seen on occasions of a certain kind, the further sensa 
which we may expect on behaving in certain ways will 
continue to show the same kind of resemblance. Thus, as 
the phrase ‘illusions of sense’ or ‘illusory sensa’ describes 
cases in which actual errors are made as to the relations be- 
tween sensa, so ‘appearances of sense’ describes cases in 
which care is taken that errors of this kind shall not be made. 

The same kind of error is expressed by the use of the 
word ‘image’. The two errors are similar in that each of 
them projects into the sensum, or into a fictitious entity more 
or less modelled on the sensum, the mistakes which we make 
when we think about it and think confusedly. The victim 
of this second delusion will say: ‘All this can be better 
expressed by using the word “image”. If we see one man 
farther away than another, or look obliquely down on railway 
lines, what we see is an image of the thing at which we are 
looking. The image of the distant man is really smaller than 
that of the nearer; the images of the metals really converge; 
the image of the stick in water is really bent; but it does not 
follow that the things are like them. That depends on the 
conditions under which the images are formed.’ 

If this is terminology, it is objectionable; if theory, it is 
false. As terminology, it suggests an analogy between the 
relation of a sensum to a body and the relation of a photo- 
graph or drawing to the object photographed or drawn. 
This is objectionable, because there is no such analogy. The 
essence of the relation between a drawing and the object 
drawn is that they are both visibly present to us as bodies 
we perceive, and one is called an image of the other in so far 
as it is visibly like it. To call that which we see when we look 
at railway lines an image of the railway lines is to suggest 
that we see the two things separately, whereas the point of 
the theory is that we do not; and to suggest that what we see 
is a true copy of the railway lines, whereas the statement made 
is that it is not. As theory, it is false, because it introduces 


between ourselves and the thing at which we are looking 
(i.e. what is visibly present to us as a perceived body) a third 
thing, owing to whose interposition we do not see the so-called 
object at all; a thing which unless our perceptions are 
illusions must be perfectly like the object, and is yet ad- 
mitted to be very unlike it. The whole theory is nothing 
but an attempt to explain the mistakes we sometimes make 
about our sensa by projecting these errors into the sensa 

§ 9. Conclusion 

Now let us return to imagination ; and begin by observing 
that when in ordinary speech we are said to imagine some- 
thing, what we imagine is not always something ‘not really 
there’. A matchbox lies before me. Three of its sides are 
turned towards me, and these are the only ones I really see. 
But I imagine the other three; one yellow and black, one 
blue, and one brown. I also imagine the inside, with 
matches lying in it. I imagine the feel of it, and the smell 
of its brown sides with their coating of phosphorus com- 
pound. These things are all really there, pretty much as I 
imagine them. Moreover (this is a point Kant has made), 
it is only so far as I imagine them that I am aware of the 
matchbox as a solid body at all. A person who could really 
see, but could not imagine, would see not a solid world of 
bodies, but merely (as Berkeley has it) ‘various colours 
variously disposed’. Thus, as Kant says, imagination is an 
‘indispensable function’ for our knowledge of the world 
around us. 

This must be granted; but it may still be urged that in 
cases of another kind what we imagine is mere phantoms, 
things without reality. I am not quite sure what this means. 
When I look at a rainbow, I do not think that I am looking 
at an arched and painted structure, over which men might 
climb and against which swallows might nest, standing upon 
two plots of ground at its two ends. I think I am looking 
at rain (though certainly I can see no drops of it) lit by the 


sunlight and breaking its whiteness into colours. When I say 
this, I am rejecting one interpretation of my sensa and 
embracing another. The rainbow is ‘really there’ not in one 
sense but in two. As a sensum or arrangement of sensa, it is 
really there in the sense that I see it; and in that sense my 
imaginary beast in the dark corner of the room is really 
there, and so are the snakes of delirium tremens. In the 
other sense of the phrase, what is really there is the rain and 
the sunshine, that is, the things in terms of which I interpret 
my sensa. 

A person suffering from a bilious attack may see a pattern 
of zigzag or embattled lines floating before his eyes. When 
I walk uphill too fast, I see in the centre of my field of vision 
a nebulous and granular patch of green light, bright in the 
middle and fading into red at the edges. I suppose it to have 
some connexion with the labouring of my heart, as the other 
is connected with digestive trouble. Are these things ‘really 
there’? In the first sense, yes; they are sensa actually seen. 
In the second sense, an answer can be given only when we 
have interpreted them, as we interpreted the rainbow in 
terms of rain and sunlight. But this we have already done. 
If in seeing the rainbow we are seeing the drops of rain and 
the white sunlight, in the embattled lines we are seeing the 
bilious attack, and in the green light the labouring heart: as, 
when a man goes red in the face, we see his anger, and when 
the trees wave their branches we see the wind. 

A third type of case. A boy dreams of a fire which destroys 
his home while he looks helplessly on. This is a clear case 
of imagination, complicated no doubt at the moment by 
illusion; when he wakes the illusion is dispelled, but the 
imagination (if he ‘remembers’ the dream, that is, continues 
to experience it in imagination) remains. Is the fire ‘really 
there’? Again, in the first sense, yes. To answer for the 
second sense, we must interpret the dream: and how we 
shall answer depends on how we interpret. If we interpret 
it as meaning that his father’s house will shortly be burnt, or 
that a friend’s house is now being burnt, we shall have to say 


that the fire is not real, and shall join our voice to that of the 
many who ‘seyen that in sweveninges there nis no truth, 
but they ben al lesinges’; which merely means that we have 
an interpretation, but recognize it to be false, and can 
suggest none better. Modern psychologists will connect 
the dream with the awakening passions of adolescence which 
are tormenting the boy’s body and frightening his soul, 
while they destroy the safe and sheltered life he has hitherto 
lived. If that interpretation is right, the fire is as real as the 
rainbow and the embattled lines. It is the way in which the 
boy sees the crisis that has come upon him. 

This, then, is the result of our examination. Sensa cannot 
be divided, by any test whatever, into real and imaginary; 
sensations cannot be divided into real sensations and imagi- 
nations. That experience which we call sensation is of one 
kind only, and is not amenable to the distinctions between 
real and unreal, true and false, veridical and illusory. That 
which is true or false is thought; and our sensa are called 
real and illusory in so far as we think truly or falsely about 
them. To think about them is to interpret them, which 
means stating the relations in which they stand to other 
sensa, actual or possible. A real sensum means a sensum 
correctly interpreted; an illusory sensum, one falsely inter- 
preted. And an imaginary sensum means one which has not 
been interpreted at all: either because we have tried to 
interpret it and have failed, or because we have not tried. 
These are not three kinds of sensa, nor are they sensa 
corresponding with three kinds of sensory act. Nor are they 
sensa which, on being correctly interpreted, are found to be 
related to their fellows in three different ways. They are 
sensa in respect of which the interpretative work of thought 
has been done well, or done ill, or left undone. 

The common-sense distinction between real and imagi- 
nary sensa is therefore not false. There is a distinction. 
But it is not a distinction among sensa. It is a distinction 
among the various ways in which sensa may be related to the 
interpretative work of thought. 


§ i . Imagination as Active 

We have not yet finished with the introspection theory. The 
germs of this theory we found in Locke ; its first clear state- 
ment in Berkeley; and in Hume, as we saw, it carried the 
entire weight of his theory of knowledge. We rejected it, 
because the examples of idees fixes and hallucinations make 
it impossible for us to correlate the distinction between real 
and imaginary sensa with the distinction between sensa- 
tions that are not under the control of our will and those 
that are under such control. But this was our only reason 
for rejecting it; and we must, in fairness to the theory, ask 
ourselves whether it is rejected as altogether mistaken, or 
only as overstating something which, when the overstate- 
ment is removed, turns out to be true. 

Locke himself, as so often, hesitates in his language 
between a moderate and an extreme view. To call fantastical 
ideas ‘Fictions at Pleasure’ implies an extreme view; to say 
that ‘the Mind of Man uses some kind of Liberty’ in form- 
ing them implies a far more moderate one; for what kind of 
liberty is used ? That is the question we are now to raise. 

The thesis to be examined is that, in some way not yet 
clearly defined, imagination contrasts with sensation as 
something active with something passive, something we do 
with something we undergo, something under our control 
with something we cannot help, a making with a receiving. 
I am being purposely vague, because I am trying at present 
merely to restate a common-sense idea which, as common 
sense holds it, is nothing if not vague. If we agree to accept 
it provisionally in this vague shape, we may hope to make it 
more precise afterwards. 

Most people quite unthinkingly take the idea for granted. 
One can see this from the popularity of the term ‘sense- 


datum’. People who use that word, or in equivalent English 
spe .k of what is ‘given’ in sensation, perhaps do not ask 
themselves what exactly they mean. Obviously, they are not 
thinking of the natural and ordinary sense of the verb ‘to 
give’. That would imply that they conceived a patch of 
colour, for example, as something transferred on a given 
occasion from the ownership of one person called the donor 
to that of another called the recipient, to whom he ‘gives’ it 
either out of sheer generosity or because he has seen as 
much of it as he wants. There is also a technical sense of 
dari in scholastic Latin, arising out of the terminology of 
logical debate, where datur means ‘it is granted’, that is to 
say, you are allowed to assert something. Here datum means 
what you are allowed to assert at this point in the debate. 
In this sense, if a scholastic philosopher has succeeded to his 
own satisfaction in proving the existence of God, he ends his 
argument : ergo datur Deus. But people who talk about sense- 
data clearly mean more than this, though less than the other 
sense. It seems that they are using the term in some mys- 
terious sense of their own, meaning by its use (we may 
perhaps guess) to call our attention to a contrast between 
imagination and sensation which somehow vaguely reminds 
them of the contrast between making (say) a paper-knife for 
yourself and receiving one as a present from a friend. 

There certainly is a contrast of this kind. As usual, 
common sense is justified in pointing to a distinction, but 
incapable of telling us what the distinction is. When we 
begin trying to answer that question for ourselves, we seem 
at first only able to say what it is not. 

For example, it is not a distinction between activity and 
passivity as such. Sensation itself is an activity. Even if we 
do it only because we are stimulated to it by forces outside 
our control, it is still something which we do. Response to 
stimulus is in some sense passive, in so far as it cannot arise 
without the stimulus; but it is also active, in so far as it is 
a response. If I am a kind of factory for converting wave- 
lengths into colours, air-disturbances into sounds, and so 


forth, as the materialists believe (and Locke with them), 
there is work done in that conversion; the machinery is 
active, even if it is controlled by no manager or foreman. 
Even wax and water are active in their own special ways, or 
they would not take and retain the seal, or break into waves 
at the stone’s impact. 

Nor is it a distinction among passivities (things that happen 
to us, as distinct from things we do) according as they are 
done to us by external bodies impinging on our own, or by 
changes arising within our own organism, as Malebranche 
maintained. For sensation, as well as imagination, is on its 
bodily side a change arising within our own organism, and 
due to the energies of that organism itself. The afferent 
nerves through whose activity we feel a pressure on a 
finger-tip are not solid rods conveying that pressure itself 
to the brain; they are functioning in their own way as a 
special kind of living tissue; if they ceased to function in that 
way, no amount of pressure on the finger could give rise to a 

Nor is it a distinction among activities (things we do) 
between those we do of our own choice and those we cannot 
help doing. It is in fact easier to stop seeing this paper, by 
shutting one’s eyes, than to stop imagining the frightful 
accident which one saw yesterday. 

If we reject these false solutions, and yet cling to the belief 
that the original distinction was not wholly groundless, our 
problem takes shape thus. In some sense or other, imagina- 
tion is more free than sensation. Even sensation is not 
entirely unfree; it is a spontaneous activity of the living and 
sentient organism; but the freedom of imagination goes a 
step further. And even imagination is not free in the way 
in which the conscious carrying-out of an intention is free; 
the freedom it possesses is not the freedom of choice; yet 
for all that it is a kind of freedom which is denied to sensa- 
tion. Regarded as an activity or manifestation of freedom, 
then, imagination seems to occupy a place intermediate 
between the less free activity of mere feeling and the more 


free activity of what is generally called thought. Our task 

is to define this intermediate place. 

§ 2. The Traditional Confusion of Sense with Imagination 

At this point we must return to the difficulty stated at the 
end of Chapter VIII. That difficulty arose out of the 
question : How can we think about relations between sensa ? 
As a possible solution, I suggested that when people (includ- 
ing ourselves) talk about relations between sensa they are 
really talking not about sensa but about things of another 
kind, like sensa in certain ways, but unlike them in others; 
and that these other things belong to a region of experience 
which we call not sensation but imagination. Thus, it was 
suggested, imagination forms a kind of link between sensa- 
tion and intellect, as Aristotle and Kant agreed in main- 
taining. If this suggestion can be made good, we shall be in 
a fair way towards answering the question how in respect 
of its freedom imagination is intermediate between feeling, 
as less free than itself, and intellect as more free. 

We found in Chapter VIII that sensation must be regarded 
as a flux of activity in which, however few or however many 
distinct sensory acts are going on together at any one time, 
each is no sooner achieved than it gives place to another. 
In each act we sense a colour, a sound, a scent, or the like, 
which can be present to us only in our performance of the 
corresponding act. As soon as the act is over, the sensum 
has vanished, never to return. Its esse is sentiri. 

Objection may easily be raised to this last phrase as an 
overstatement. ‘Naturally’, it may be said, ‘we cannot see 
a colour without seeing it. But what could be more absurd 
than to argue that, because we have stopped seeing it, the 
colour has ceased to exist? For all we know, colours may 
perfectly well go on existing when we are not looking at 
them.’ 1 The objection is an excellent example of ‘meta- 
physics’ in the sense in which that word has at various times 

1 I paraphrase Professor G. E. Moore, ‘The Nature and Reality of Objects 
of Perception’, in his Philosophical Studies, pp. 31 seqq. 


become a term of merited abuse. For all we know, chim- 
aeras may bombinate in a vacuum, and a hundred angels 
stand on the point of a needle. And there is a kind of 
pleasure to be got by indulging in these metaphysical fairy- 
tales, somewhat like the pleasure of talking nonsense. It is 
the pleasure of allowing an overstrained and jaded intellect 
to kick up its heels without a load on its back. There is also 
a pleasure to be got by philosophical thinking; but a very 
different one. The fairy-tale about the existence of un- 
sensed sensa, no doubt, is believed by the people who 
indulge in it to be a piece of philosophical thinking. Their 
reason for this belief is that unless it were true they think 
propositions like the following would be nonsense: ‘If 
these conditions had been fulfilled, I should have been per- 
ceiving a sense-datum intrinsically related to this sense- 
datum in this way.’ 1 But even if the belief in question were 
true, propositions of this kind would still be nonsense unless 
it were true not merely that a sensum exists apart from our 
sensation of it, but that in this state of apartness it is open 
to our inspection; we have it before our mind in such a way 
that we can appreciate its qualities, compare them with 
those of other sensa, and so forth. The question is not one of 
metaphysics, whether colours exist or not when we do not 
see them; it is a question of epistemology, whether we can 
‘have them before our mind’ in the above sense otherwise 
than by seeing them; and, if so, how. If we cannot, proposi- 
tions of the kind in question are all nonsensical; if we can, 
the description of colours as ‘sense-data’ (or ‘sensa’) is either 
false, or is saved from being false only by an ambiguity in the 
word ‘sensation’ and its cognates. 

I have quoted Professor Moore not because he is unusual 
in this respect but because he is typical ; and not because he 
is an exceptionally confused thinker but because he is an 
exceptionally clear one. He is merely expounding a tradi- 
tional theory of sensation in which the systematic confusion 

1 Prof. Moore, ‘Defence of Common Sense’, in Contemporary British 
Philosophy, vol. ii, pp. 221-2. 


of sensation with imagination has, in spite of Hume’s pro- 
test, become a dogma. The only way in which a sensum can 
be present to us is by our sensing it; and if there is anything 
which enables us to speak of ‘sensa’ not now being sensed, 
this cannot be strictly sensation, and the sensa in question 
cannot be strictly sensa. This is an obvious truth; but the 
denial of it has become an orthodoxy; and we must expect 
any statement of it to be greeted with blank stupefaction or 
indignant accusations of paradox-mongering. 

The error dates back to Locke. It is roundly stated on the 
first page of his constructive argument ( Essay , book n, ch. i, 
ad init .). ‘Let us suppose the Mind to be, as we say, White 
Paper, void of all characters, without any Ideas ; how comes 
it to be furnish’d ? How comes it by that vast store which 
the busy and boundless Fancy of Man has painted on it with 
an almost endless variety ?’ The answer is given by stating 
the doctrine of ideas, with their two classes, ideas of sensation 
and ideas of reflection. From the first source, our senses, 
we have ideas of ‘ Yellow , White , Heat, Cold, Soft, Hard, 
Bitter, Sweet, and all those which we call sensible Qualities’; 
from the second, our ideas of * Perception , Thinking, Doubting, 
Believing, Reasoning, Knowing, Willing, and all the different 
Actings of our own Minds’. The origin he attributes to ‘the 
idea of Yellow ’ would make it a sensum, an individual patch 
of yellow which appears and is gone as soon as it has ap- 
peared. The function he imposes on it would make it some- 
thing very different; something recurrent and recognizable, 
a permanent addition to our experience. Sensation ‘furnishes’ 
the mind with nothing whatever; it writes no legible char- 
acters on any white paper within us. What sensation writes 
is written in water. The task of building up furniture for the 
mind out of sensa, which is the task Locke imposes on the 
understanding, is like ordering a joiner to make furniture 
for a room out of the shadows cast by the window-bars in 
sunlight on the floor. 

It was Hume who first perceived the problem, and tried 
to solve it by distinguishing ideas from impressions. He 


was right when he laid it down that the immediate concern 
of thought is not with impressions but with ideas ; that it is 
ideas, not impressions, that are associated with one another 
and thus built up into the fabric of knowledge; and that 
ideas, though ‘derived’ from impressions, are not mere 
relics of them like an after-taste of onions or an after-image 
of the sun (as Lockians like Condillac supposed), but some- 
thing different in kind: different, if not in what he calls their 
‘nature’, in the way in which they are related to the active 
powers of the mind. But because he was not able, as we have 
seen, to give a satisfactory account of this difference, we find 
to-day that philosophers who attempt to follow him lose 
sight of his partial but very real achievement; either identi- 
fying the idea with a special kind of impression, like Con- 
dillac, or denying the idea altogether, and reducing what 
Hume called the relations between ideas to relations between 
the words which we use when we talk about ideas . 1 

The confusions which in the minds of most modern philo- 
sophers beset the whole idea of sensation are thus so in- 
veterate, in English thought at least, that it may seem hopeless 
to demand a return to Hume and a serious attempt to clear 
them up. Nevertheless, that is my programme. 

1 Condillac, Traitd des Sensations , i. ii, § 6. ‘Mais l’odeur qu’elle [sc. the 
hypothetical statue of his argument, endowed at this stage with the sense of 
smell and no other faculties except what are involved in its exercising that 
sense] sent ne lui echappe pas enticement, aussitot que le corps odoriferant 
cesse d’agir sur son organe. . . . Voila la memoire.’ This is as much as to say 
that when, on reaching land after a rough voyage, the after-effects of the 
tossing I have experienced make me feel as if the land were heaving, my 
memory that the sea was rough simply is this swaying sensation I now feel. 
Cf. Semon’s account of ‘mnemic feelings’ ( Die mnemischen Empfindungen , 
1909). Such feelings are (to speak with Hume) impressions; a memory is 
an idea; and the belief that memory can be described in such a way is an 
example of identifying the idea with one kind of impression. The alternative 
way of ignoring Hume is to merge the idea in the word by which we designate 
it, and thus reduce what Hume calls relations between ideas to relations 
between words. This is the doctrine of certain ‘logical positivists’, who 
hold that the propositions which Hume describes as asserting relations 
between ideas merely ‘record our determination to use symbols’ that is, 
words ‘in a certain fashion’ (A. J. Ayer, Language , Truth, and Logic (1935), 
P . 11). 



§ 3. Impressions and Ideas 

Modern philosophers, when they talk of sensation, sensa, 
and the like are talking about at least two kinds of things 
which they fail to distinguish. First, something which they 
are really talking about sometimes, and profess to be talking 
about always, when they use such language: ‘real’ colours 
and the act of seeing them, sounds and the act of hearing 
them, scents and the act of smelling them, and so forth. 
Secondly, something very different, namely acts of imagining 
and the ‘imaginary’ colours, sounds, scents, and so forth 
which we imagine. It is the second class of things to which 
they are referring whenever they talk about the sensa which 
in certain circumstances we should perceive or should have 
perceived; the sensa which we have perceived in the past; 
the sensa which we expect to perceive in the future. 1 It is to 
these they are referring whenever they talk about a family 
or class or collection or manifold of sensa. 

There must be a distinction between these two kinds of 
things; for if there were not, the statements which are made 
about relations between sensa, quite apart from the question 
whether they are true or not, could not even be made; for 
nobody could in that case even imagine himself to be com- 
paring different sensa. The problems discussed by these 
philosophers would not only be incapable of solution, they 
could never have been raised. There must, in other words, 
be a form of experience other than sensation, but closely 
related to it; so closely as to be easily mistaken for it, but 
different in that the colours, sounds, and so on which in this 
experience we ‘perceive’ are retained in some way or other 
before the mind, anticipated, recalled, although these same 
colours and sounds, in their capacity as sensa, have ceased 
to be seen and heard. 

This other form of experience is what we ordinarily call 
imagination; ordinarily, because its existence as a form of 
experience different from sensation, yet closely akin to it, 

1 I borrow the Humian term ‘perceive’ from Professor Moore. 


is something with which we are all perfectly familiar and for 
which we have this familiar name. How it is related to the 
thing called imagination at the end of the last chapter re- 
mains to be seen. For the present, we must cling to the 
notion that something of the kind exists, and recollect that 
its existence was a cardinal point in the philosophy of Hume. 
It was in order to distinguish it from sensation that Hume 
distinguished ideas from impressions; and it was his great 
merit to have realized that what modern philosophers miscall 
relations between sensa (that is, between what he calls 
impressions) are relations not between impressions but be- 
tween ideas. The place which Hume’s ideas inhabit is the 
empty room of Locke, progressively furnished with what 
‘the busy and boundless Fancy of man’ provides. And it is 
imagination, not sensation, to which appeal is made when 
empiricists appeal to ‘experience’. 

§ 4. Attention 

Thought, I said in chapter VIII, detects ‘relations between 
sensa’; finds in this patch of colour a qualitative similarity 
with others, and in virtue of that similarity calls this patch 
red. But in order that we may detect resemblances or any 
other relations between things, we must first identify each 
of them : distinguish each as a thing by itself and appreciate 
its qualities as those qualities we find it to possess, even 
though as yet (not having determined their relations to 
qualities found elsewhere) we are not in a position to name 
them. Before I can say ‘This is red’ I must first have 
appreciated the colour-quality which, because it is like 
certain others, I thus call by the same name. This act of 
appreciating something, just as it stands, before I can begin 
to classify it, is what we call attending to it. 

It may be objected that what I have called appreciating 
the colour-quality of a red patch is the same as seeing it: in 
other words, that what I am here calling attention to is noth- 
ing but sensation itself. Before answering this objection, I 
will begin by pointing out that looking is different from 


seeing, and listening from hearing. Seeing and hearing are 
species of sensation; looking and listening are the corre- 
sponding species of attention. 

I have followed the current tradition in quoting ‘a red 
patch’ as an example of a sensum. But what presents itself 
to our eyes, in so far as we merely see, is never a red patch. 
•It is always a visual field, more or less parti-coloured; having 
no definite edges, but fading into confusion and dimness 
away from the focus of vision. A patch is a piece cut out of 
this field, which presents itself to us only in so far as we 
look at it. To describe it as a patch implies that the field is 
divided into an object of attention, and a background or 
penumbra from which attention is withdrawn. 

Attention divides, but it does not abstract. We attend, for 
example, only to this red patch out of all the variegated field 
of vision; but what we attend to is the red patch as it 
presents itself to us, a concrete individual. Similarly, we 
may attend to the red patch as we see it, as distinct from the 
emotion which we feel in seeing it. On the other hand, if we 
abstract from it the quality of redness, a quality which can 
be shared by other individual patches, we do so not by 
attending but by thinking. The activity of thinking or 
intellectual activity always presupposes the activity of atten- 
tion, .not in the sense that it can only happen after it, but in 
the sense that it rests upon it as upon a foundation. Atten- 
tion is going on concurrently with intellection; an attention 
combined with intellection, and modified by it in such way as 
that combination requires. 

Thus, when to the merely psychic experience of feeling 
(purely sensuous-emotional experience) there is added the 
activity of attention, the block of feeling present to the mind 
is split in two. That part of it to which we pay attention is 
called the ‘conscious’ part (properly speaking, it is not it 
that is conscious, it is we that are conscious of it); the rest 
is the ‘unconscious’ part. What is called ‘the unconscious’ 
is not the psychical level of experience as such, but the 
negative counterpart or penumbra of that upon which atten- 


tion is focused. This is relatively, not absolutely, uncon- 
scious. It is not absent from attention; it is removed from 
its focus, ignored. And obviously we cannot ignore a thing 
unless we give it a certain degree and a peculiar kind of 

At the merely psychical level, the distinction between 
conscious and unconscious does not exist. To describe this 
level as unconscious, therefore, is to describe it in terms of 
an antithesis which does not apply to it, and thus to place it 
in a false perspective. The mind here exists only in the shape 
of sentience. What we are doing at this level is what 
Descartes described as ‘using his senses’, or what Professor 
Alexander calls ‘enjoying ourselves’. Descartes 1 calls this 
the immediate experience of the union of the mind with the 
body; Alexander regards it as a relation to ourselves which 
is too intimate to be knowledge. We can never catch our- 
selves thus engaged, to draw up an account of our employ- 
ment. When the light of consciousness falls on such 
occupations, they change their character; what was sentience 
becomes imagination. Hence we cannot study psychical 
experience, or even assure ourselves that it exists, by in- 
quiring of our own consciousness; that can only tell us 
clearly of the things to which it attends, and obscurely of 
those which it ignores. Those which are utterly outside its 
ken must be studied by other methods. But what are these 
methods to be? Behaviourism has dealt with the problem, 
and gone some way towards a correct solution, by dismissing 
‘introspection’, that is, inquiry made of consciousness, as 
futile, and identifying the psychical with the physiological. 

1 ‘C’est en usant seulement de la vie et des conversations ordinaires, et en 
s’abstenant de mediter et d’etudier aux choses qui exercent Timagination 
[viz., mathematics], qu’on apprend k concevoir l’union de Time et du corps 
... la principale r&gle que j’ai tou jours observee en mes etudes ... a ete que 
je n’ai jamais employ^ que fort peu d’heures, par jour, aux pensees qui 
occupent l’imagination [mathematics], et fort peu d’heures, par an, k celles 
qui occupent l’entendement seul [metaphysics], et que j’ai donn£ tout le 
reste de mon temps au relSche des sens et au repos de Tesprit. . . . C’est ce 
qui m’a fait retirer aux champs.’ — Letter of 28 June 1643 to the Princess 




The method thus devised is perfectly sound, but for one 
flaw. Unless we had independent knowledge both that there 
is such a thing as psychical experience and what kind of a 
thing it is, the problem which the behaviourist solves by his 
method could never arise. This independent knowledge is 
derived neither from observing bodily ‘behaviour’ nor from 
questioning consciousness, but from analysing consciousness, 
and thus discovering its relation to a more elementary kind 
of experience which it presupposes. 

The principle of this analysis depends on the fact that 
attention (or, as we may now indifferently call it, conscious- 
ness or awareness) has a double object where sentience has a 
single. What we hear, for example, is merely sound. What 
we attend to is two things at once : a sound, and our act of 
hearing it. The act of sensation is not present to itself, but 
it is present, together with its own sensum, to the act of 
attention. This is, in fact, the special significance of the 
con- in the word consciousness : it indicates the togetherness 
of the two things, sensation and sensum, both of which are 
present to the conscious mind. A man conscius sibi irae 1 is 
not one who simply feels anger; he is one who is aware of the 
anger as his own, and is aware of himself as feeling it. Thus, 
the difference between seeing and looking, or hearing and 
listening, is that a person who is said to be looking is de- 
scribed as aware of his own seeing as well as of the thing he 
sees. There is the same focusing on both sides. As in 
looking I focus my attention on part of the visual field, 
seeing the rest but seeing it ‘unconsciously’, so at the same 
time I focus my attention on part of the multiform sensory 
action which at the moment is the totality of my seeing, and 
thus that part of it becomes a conscious seeing or looking, 
the rest becomes ‘unconscious’ seeing. 

§ 5. The Modification of Feeling by Consciousness 

Colour, or anger, which is no longer merely seen or felt 
but attended to, is still colour or anger. When we become 
1 Suetonius, Claudius . 


conscious of it, it is still the very same colour and the very 
same anger. But the total experience of seeing or feeling 
it has undergone a change, and in that change what we see 
or feel is correspondingly changed. This is the change which 
Hume describes by speaking of the difference between an 
impression and an idea. 

With the entry of consciousness into experience, a new 
principle has established itself. Attention is focused upon 
one thing to the exclusion of the rest. The mere fact that 
something is present to sense does not give it a claim on 
attention. Even what is most vividly present to sense can 
do no more than solicit attention ; it cannot secure it. Thus, 
the focus of attention is by no means necessarily identical 
with the focus of vision. I can fix my eyes in one direction, 
and my attention upon what lies at a considerable angle away 
from it. I can deliberately refuse attention to the loudest of 
the noises I am hearing, and concentrate upon a much less 
conspicuous one. Often, no doubt, we idly allow our atten- 
tion to be attracted by whatever is most prominent in sensa- 
tion and emotion ; the brightest light, the loudest noise, the 
pain or anger or fear that comes most strongly upon us ; but 
there is no reason for this in principle, and it only happens 
so long as our consciousness is a faint and confused one. 

Thus attention is in no sense a response to stimulus. It 
takes no orders from sensation. Consciousness, master in its 
own house, dominates feeling. Now feeling as so dominated, 
feeling as compelled to accept whatever place consciousness 
gives it, focal or peripheral, in the field of attention, is no 
longer impression, it is idea. Consciousness is absolutely 
autonomous : its decision alone determines whether a given 
sensum or emotion shall be attended to or not. A conscious 
being is not thereby free to decide what feelings he shall 
have; but he is free to decide what feeling he shall place in 
the focus of his consciousness. 

Yet he is not free to choose whether he shall exercise this 
power of decision or not. In so far as he is conscious, he is 
obliged to decide; for that decision is consciousness itself. 


Further: in so far as he is simply conscious, he does not 
review his various feelings and then decide which of them he 
shall attend to. Such a review would be a successive atten- 
tion to these various feelings. In order to choose, in the strict 
sense of that word, which feeling he shall attend to, he must 
first have attended to them all. The freedom of consciousness 
is thus not a freedom of choice between alternatives; that is 
a further kind of freedom, which arises only when experience 
reaches the level of intellect. 

The freedom of mere consciousness is thus an elementary 
kind of freedom; but it is a very real kind. At the level of 
psychic experience, the self is dominated by its own feelings. 
What Berkeley or Hume calls their ‘force’ or ‘liveliness’ 
consists in the fact of this dominance. A child feels pain and 
screams; fear, and cringes; anger, and howls or bites; each 
in perfectly automatic reaction to the emotion of the moment. 
At the level of consciousness, the feelings are dominated by 
the self that owns them. When the child becomes conscious, 
he not only finds himself feeling in various ways, but attends 
to some of these feelings and not to others. If he now 
howls with rage, it is not because of the rage simply, but 
because of his attending to it. The howl becomes a different 
one, audibly different to an experienced ear: not the auto- 
matic howl of sheer rage, but the self-conscious howl of a 
child who, attending to his own rage, seems anxious to draw 
the attention of others to it. As this consciousness of himself 
becomes firmer and more habitual, he finds that he can 
dominate the rage by the sheer act of attending to what he is 
doing, and thus stop howling, master his feelings instead of 
letting them master him. 

The consciousness of self as something other than the 
feeling of the moment, something to which that feeling 
belongs, is thus the assertion of the self as able in principle to 
dominate the feeling. Neither is a consequence of the other. 
It is not because the child first becomes conscious of himself 
that he then proceeds to act on that consciousness; it is not 
because he first dominates his feelings that, reflecting on this 


experience, he becomes aware of his own existence. The 
theoretical and practical activities, self-consciousness and 
self-assertion, form together a single indivisible experience. 

The effect of this experience on the feelings themselves 
is to make them less violent. They do not suffer alteration in 
quality or diminution of intensity; but their violence, or 
power of determining our actions (including our thoughts, 
so far as we can be said to think at this primitive stage), is 
abated. They are no longer like storms or earthquakes, 
devastating our life. They become domesticated; real ex- 
periences still, and experiences of the same kind as before; 
but fitted into the fabric of our life instead of proceeding on 
their own way regardless of its structure. True, we do not 
yet conceive this as a structure of a definite kind, involving 
certain ends to which our various acts must be subordinated; 
that belongs to a later stage. But in asserting ourselves as 
against our feelings we have asserted in principle a structure 
of some kind, though as yet an indeterminate one. In be- 
coming aware of myself I do not yet know at all what I am; 
but I do know that I am something to which this feeling 
belongs, not something belonging to it. 

This domestication has a further result. We become able 
to perpetuate feelings (including sensa) at will. Attending to 
a feeling means holding it before the mind; rescuing it from 
the flux of mere sensation, and conserving it for so long as 
may be necessary in order that we should take note of it. 
This, again, means perpetuating the act by which we feel it; 
for a given sensum can appear only to the appropriate act, 
and a sustained sensum implies ,a sustained act of sensation. 
If the reference here had been to pure sensation, this language 
would have been meaningless; but the reference is to sensa- 
tion as modified by consciousness. We have already seen 
how, in general, that modification works. The conscious 
self is no longer dominated by its feelings; it can select and 
isolate any one element contained in them, placing that 
element in the focus of attention. Moreover, when this is 

/InnA fka rrrVii^ to +/*v lies flia oliotwiofai* 


relatively to the self’s total experience not of impression but 
of idea: it does not command, it obeys; it does not determine 
the reaction of the self, it exemplifies the self’s mastery over 
its own possessions. 

If this is applied to the special case of sensa, we get the 
following result. In the flux of sensations, one pattern of 
the total sensory field is being replaced by another. Attention 
now focuses itself on one element in that field: for example, 
this scarlet patch. As I look, the red is actually fading; it is 
being obscured by the superimposition of its own after- 
image, which dulls the scarlet moment by moment. But by 
attending to the scarlet and neglecting everything else I 
create a kind of compensation for this fading. This pro- 
gressive refocusing of attention is so familiar and habitual 
a thing that we only with difficulty recognize it as going on. 
It requires a certain effort to discover that every colour we 
see begins to fade from the moment we begin to see it. By 
thus adjusting our attention we do not make our organs of 
sense work in a different way; we do not lift any sensa, as 
such, out of their native flux; but we obtain a new kind of 
experience by moving as it were with the flux, so that the 
self and the object are (so to speak) at rest relatively to each 
other for an appreciable time. What we have done is no 
doubt very little; but that little is very important; we have 
liberated ourselves for a moment from the flux of sensation 
and kept something before us long enough to get a fair sight 
of it. At the same time we have converted it from impression 
into idea; we have become conscious of ourselves as its 
masters, and broken its mastery over us. We have told it to 
stay still, and it has stayed, though only for a moment. 

A moment means a short space of time; but how short? 
How far must the flux of sense have carried a sound or a 
colour, before the attempt to compensate for its gradual 
disappearance by the operation of consciousness must fail? 
Obviously, no definite answer can be given. A fit of anger, 
passing away, leaves a fading trace of itself in our actual 
feeling, progressively swamped beneath feelings of other 


kinds, for an indeterminable length of time. So long as any 
such trace remains, attention may single it out and, by a 
similar process, reconstitute the original feeling in the shape 
of an idea. These traces last far longer than we are apt to 
suppose; and it is probable that what we call remembering 
an emotion is never anything but thus focusing our atten- 
tion on the traces it has left in our present feeling. The 
same is perhaps true of recalling a colour, or sound, or scent. 
Memory, in this sense of a somewhat ambiguous word, is 
perhaps only fresh attention to the traces of a sensuous- 
emotional experience which has not yet entirely passed away. 
This would explain why lapse of time makes it harder to 
remember such experiences. Hume’s ‘idea of red which we 
form in the dark’ becomes harder and harder to evoke, 
according to the length of time since last we had an 
impression of red, until at last we find ourselves unable to 
evoke it at all. 

This is the meaning which we can still attach to Hume’s 
formula, that all ideas are derived from impressions, and 
accept that formula as the statement of a truth which is not 
invalidated by Hume’s misapplication of it to the case of 

§ 6. Consciousness and Imagination 

We have still a long way to go before we can wholly 
justify the brave language philosophers use about ‘sensa’. 
They speak like men accustomed to call spirits from the 
vasty deep, who feel sure that they will come. They are 
not content with the longer or shorter perpetuation of im- 
pression into idea, through the work of consciousness, 
which I have attempted to describe in the preceding section. 
They want not only to recall sensa which are vanishing, but 
to envisage others which have never been present to them; 
to know what sensa they would have in hypothetical condi- 
tions, and what other people are having now. These 
miracles can, no doubt, be done. But they are not done by 

r\( rrttion'AndhAee! T'Katt o nnlw 


so far as consciousness is developed into, or supplemented 
by, intellect. The ‘experience’ to which these philosophers 
appeal is so far from being merely sensuous that it depends 
for its existence on fully developed thinking. 

But that would take us beyond the subject of this book. 
Our present business is to ask how the concept of imagination 
expounded in this chapter is related to that which was put 
forward in Chapter IX. The two things certainly appear 
very different; and if both have been arrived at by analysing 
Hume’s distinction between impression and idea, one 
might conclude that, unless our analysis has been faulty, 
Hume was confusing two quite different distinctions in one 
and the same pair of terms. We have now to ask whether 
that conclusion would be justified. 

In the last chapter we understood the distinction between 
impressions and ideas as equivalent to that between real and 
imaginary sensa, and we decided that this meant the distinc- 
tion between sensa interpreted by thought and sensa not so 
interpreted. Here we have understood it as equivalent to the 
distinction between sheer feeling and feeling as modified 
by consciousness with the double result of dominating it 
and perpetuating it. 

Let us begin by considering the second discrepancy: that 
between idea as a feeling not interpreted by thought, and 
idea as a feeling perpetuated and dominated by consciousness. 
Now, it has already been urged (see above, p. 203, § 4) that 
the work of determining the relations between things must 
depend on something prior to it, namely having these things 
held before the mind in such a way that we can compare 
them with one another, and so become able to see how they 
resemble one another and so forth. We must know what 
each is in itself before we can decide how they are related. 
To know „what a given thing is in itself is not, of course, 
the same as knowing what kind of a thing it is. To say of 
what we see, ‘This is a patch of red’, is going far beyond 
knowing what it is in itself: it is considering it in relation to 
an established system of colours with established names. To 


say ‘red here now’ is to go even farther, and consider it also 
as located in a system of spatial and temporal relations with 
other things. Our knowledge of what it is in itself, if we try 
to express that in words, will be stated in some such phrase 
as * this is what I see’, or, since to call my act one of seeing is 
already to distinguish, 'this is how I feel’. This is the kind of 
thing we must be able to say before we begin interpreting, 
that is, discussing relations. And we become able to say this, 
not through bare sensation, but through consciousness of 
sensation. What makes us able to say it is that we have, by 
the work of attention, at once selected and perpetuated some 
element which we find in the field of sensation, and some 
corresponding element in the sensory act. 

The two accounts I have given of ‘imaginations’ or ‘ideas’ 
are thus not incompatible. For a feeling of which we have 
become conscious is only one ready for interpretation, not 
one we have begun to interpret. And conversely, an un- 
interpreted feeling, if that means a feeling which is ready for . 
interpretation, can only be a feeling of which we have become 
conscious. The two accounts are not only compatible, they 
are complementary, and must refer to the same thing. 

With the first discrepancy, that between impression as 
real sensum (i.e. sensum interpreted by thought) and im- 
pression as sheer feeling, it is otherwise. We have in effect 
distinguished three stages in the life of a feeling. (1) First, 
as bare feeling, below the level of consciousness. (2) 
Secondly, as a feeling of which we have become conscious. 

(3) Thirdly, as a feeling which, in addition to becoming 
conscious of it, we have placed in its relation to others. 
Whether these three stages are sometimes or always separ- 
ated in time, we need not ask. Their essential relation is not 
temporal, but logical. Where A is logically presupposed by 
B, A need not have existed by itself before B came into 
existence; the logical relation may stand, even though they 
came into existence at the same time. 

Of these three stages, we have identified (2) as what Hume 
means by idea. The two characteristics which appeared 


discrepant, but which we have found to be compatible and 
indeed correlative, are the relations in which (2) stands to 
(1) and (3) respectively. The reason why they appeared 
contradictory was that we had not yet distinguished between 
(1) and (3). In the preceding chapter, we ended by inter- 
preting the word ‘impression’ in sense (3); in this chapter, 
we have interpreted it in sense (1). The truth is that Hume 
does not distinguish the two meanings. An impression, for 
him, is distinguished from an idea only by its force or 
liveliness; but this force may be of two kinds. It may be the 
brute violence of crude sensation, as yet undominated by 
thought. Or it may be the solid strength of a sensum 
firmly placed in its context by the interpretative work of 
thought. Hume did not recognize the difference; and his 
failure has been a damnosa hereditas for all subsequent philo- 
sophy, at least for those philosophies which stand on the 
empiricist wing of our tradition. For such philosophies it 
has become a commonplace that the world we know is 
somehow constructed out of sense-data, and that our state- 
ments about it are in the first instance based upon experience, 
and subsequently verified- by reference to the same; where 
experience is taken to mean a store or supply of something 
called sense-data. We saw that in the current use of this 
and kindred words Hume’s distinction between impressions 
and ideas had been ignored with disastrous results. At the 
beginning of the present section we have seen something 
further: namely, that the word is actually applied, not only 
to both (1) and (2), but also and frequently to (3). The word 
sense-datum or sensum is applied not only to something 
given by sensation, in which case it would at once be taken 
away again ; not only to something perpetuated by conscious- 
ness or imagination, in which case the only region from 
which it could be called up would be that of past sensation; 
but to something constructed inferentially by the work of 
intellect. If all these three things are habitually confused, 
part of the blame, unless my reading of him is at fault, must 
lie with Hume. 


ax 5 

§ 7. Consciousness and Truth 

The activity of consciousness, we have seen, converts 
impression into idea, that is, crude sensation into imagination. 
Regarded as names for a certain kind or level of experience, 
the words consciousness and imagination are synonymous: 
they stand for the same thing, namely, the love! of experience 
at which this conversion occurs. But within a single experi- 
ence of this kind there is a distinction between that which 
effects the conversion and that which has undergone it. 
Consciousness is the first of these, imagination is the second. 
Imagination is thus the new form which feeling takes when 
transformed by the activity of consciousness. 

This makes good the suggestion thrown out at the end of 
Chapter VIII, that imagination is a distinct level of experi- 
ence intermediate between sensation and intellect, the point 
at which the life of thought makes contact with the life of 
purely psychical experience. As we should now restate that 
suggestion : it is not sensa as such that provide the data for 
intellect, it is sensa transformed into ideas of imagination by 
the work of consciousness. 

In Chapter VIII, I gave a preliminary account of the 
structure of experience based on a two-term distinction 
between feeling and thought. I now seem to have retracted 
this and substituted a three-term distinction in which con- 
sciousness appears as an intermediate level of experience 
connecting the two. But that is not my intention. Conscious- 
ness is not something other than thought; it is thought 
itself; but it is a level of thought which is not yet intellect. 
What I was describing under the name of thought in Chapter 
VIII was, we can now see, not thought in the widest sense, 
which includes consciousness, but thought in a narrower 
sense, thought far excellence , or intellection. Everything 
which was said about thought, however, in the first section of 
that chapter applies not only to intellection but to thought 
generally and therefore to consciousness. The aim of this 
section is to develoD this Doint. 


The work of intellect is to apprehend or construct rela- 
tions. This work, as I explained in Chapter VIII, takes two 
shapes, one primary and the other secondary. Intellect in 
its primary function apprehends relations between terms 
which in Chapter VIII were called feelings; but we now 
know that this was inaccurate; they are not the crude feelings 
of purely psychical experience which I am now calling 
impressions, they are these feelings as modified by conscious- 
ness and so converted into ideas. Intellect in its secondary 
function apprehends relations between acts of primary 
intellection or between what in such acts we think. 

Consciousness is the activity of thought without which we 
should have no terms between which intellect in its primary 
form could detect or construct relations. Thus consciousness 
is thought in its absolutely fundamental and original shape. 

As thought, it must have that bipolarity which belongs to 
thought as such. It is an activity which may be well or ill 
done; what it thinks may be true or false. But this seems 
paradoxical; for since it is not concerned with the relations 
between things, and hence does not think in terms of concepts 
or generalizations, it cannot err, as intellect can, by referring 
things to the wrong concepts. It cannot, for instance, think 
‘This is a dog’, when the object before it is a cat. If, as we 
said above, the kind of phrase which expresses what it thinks 
is something like ‘This is how I feel’, such a statement might 
seem incapable of being false, in which case consciousness 
would have the peculiar privilege of being a kind of thought 
not liable to error, and this would amount to saying that it 
was not a kind of thought at all. 

But the statement ‘This is how I feel’ does imply bipola- 
rity. It has an opposite: ‘This is not how I feel’; and to 
assert it is to deny this opposite. Even if consciousness 
never actually erred, it would still have this in common with 
all forms of thought, that it lives by rejecting error. A true 
consciousness is the confession to ourselves of our feelings; 
a false consciousness would be disowning them, i.e. thinking 
about one of them ‘That feeling is not mine’. 


The possibility of such disowning is already implicit in 
the division of sensuous-emotional experience into what is 
attended to and what is not attended to, and the recognition 
of the former as ‘mine’. If a given feeling is thus recognized, 
it is converted from impression into idea, and thus dominated 
or domesticated by consciousness. If it is not recognized, it 
is simply relegated to the other side of the dividing line : left 
unattended to, or ignored. But there is a third alternative. The 
recognition may take place abortively. It may be attempted, 
but prove a failure. It is as if we should bring a wild animal 
indoors, hoping to domesticate it, and then, when it bites, 
lose our nerve and let go. Instead of becoming a friend, what 
we have brought into the house has become an enemy. 

I must try to pay cash for the paper money of that simile. 
First, we direct our attention towards a certain feeling, or 
become conscious of it. Then we take fright at what we have 
recognized: not because the feeling, as an impression, is an 
alarming impression, but because the idea into which we are 
converting it proves an alarming idea. We cannot see our 
way to dominate it, and shrink from persevering in the 
attempt. We therefore give it up, and turn our attention to 
something less intimidating. 

I call this the ‘corruption’ of consciousness; because con- 
sciousness permits itself to be bribed or corrupted in the 
discharge of its function, being distracted from a formidable 
task towards an easier one. So far from being a bare possi- 
bility, it is an extremely common fact. Let us return to the 
case of a child who, after howling automatically from mere 
rage, becomes conscious of himself and recognizes the rage 
as a feeling of his own. This new state of things, if properly 
developed, makes him able to dominate the rage. But if all 
that is desired is to escape being dominated by it, there are 
two ways in which this may come about. The nettle may be 
either dodged or grasped. In the first case, we avoid the 
domination of one feeling by attending to a different feeling. 
The child’s attention is distracted from his rage, and the 
howls cease. In the second, we avoid being dominated by 


fixing our attention on the very feeling which threatens to 

dominate us, and so learn to dominate it. 

The feeling from which attention is distracted, whether 
by a foolish parent or nurse or by our own self-mismanage- 
ment, does not lapse from attention altogether. Conscious- 
ness does not ignore it; it disowns it. Very soon we learn to 
bolster up this self-deceit by attributing the disowned ex- 
perience to other people. Coming down to breakfast out of 
temper, but refusing to allow that the ill humour so evident 
in the atmosphere is our own, we are distressed to find the 
whole family suffering agonies of crossness. 

The bipolarity which belongs to consciousness as a form 
of thought, infects the imaginations which it constructs. 
When consciousness is corrupted, imagination shares the 
corruption. In the mere imagining of something, whatever 
it may be, this corruption cannot exist. An imagination is 
merely an element in my sensuous-emotional experience 
upon which I fix my attention, and thus stabilize and per- 
petuate it as an idea. There can be no element in my ex- 
perience which has not a right to be so treated, and hence 
imagination as such can never be corrupt. But whenever 
some element in experience is disowned by consciousness, 
that other element upon which attention is fixed, and which 
consciousness claims as its own, becomes a sham. In itself, 
it does genuinely belong to the consciousness that claims it; 
in saying ‘This is how I feel’, consciousness is telling the 
truth; but the disowned element, with its corresponding 
statement ‘And that is how I do not feel’, infects this truth 
with error. The picture which consciousness has painted of 
its own experience is not only a selected picture (that is, a 
true one so far as it goes), it is a bowdlerized picture, or one 
whose omissions are falsifications. 

This corruption of consciousness has already been de- 
scribed by psychologists in their own way. The disowning 
of experiences they call repression; the ascription of these 
to other persons, projection; their consolidation into a mass 
of experience, homogeneous in itself (as it well may be, if the 


disowning is systematically done), dissociation; and the 
building-up of a bowdlerized experience which we will 
admit to be our own, fantasy-building. They have shown, 
too, the disastrous effect which these corruptions of con- 
sciousness have, if they become habitual, on the person 
suffering from them. The same lesson was taught long ago 
by Spinoza, who has expounded better than any other man 
the conception of the truthful consciousness and its impor- 
tance as a foundation for a healthy mental life. The problem 
of ethics, for him, is the question how man, being ridden by 
feelings, can so master them that his life, from being a 
continuous passio , an undergoing of things, can become 
a continuous actio, or doing of things. The answer he gives 
is a curiously simple one. ‘Affectus qui passio est, desinit 
esse passio, simulatque eius claram et distinctam formamus 
ideam’ {Ethics, part v, prop. 3). As soon as we form a clear 
and distinct idea of a passion, it ceases to be a passion. 

The untruth of a corrupt consciousness belongs to neither 
of the commonly recognized species of untruth. We divide 
untruths into two kinds, errors and lies. When experience 
reaches the intellectual level, the distinction is valid. Con- 
cealment of the truth is one thing, a bona fide mistake is 
another. But at the level of consciousness the distinction 
between these two things does not exist: what exists is the 
protoplasm of untruth out of which, when further developed, 
they are to grow. The untruthful consciousness, in disown- 
ing certain features of its own experience, is not making 
a bona fide mistake, for its faith is not good; it is shirking 
something which its business is to face. But it is not con- 
cealing the truth, for there is no truth which it knows 
and is concealing. Paradoxically, we may say that it is 
deceiving itself; but this is only a clumsy attempt to explain 
what is happening within a single consciousness on the 
analogy of what may happen as between one intellect and 
another. 1 

1 The untruthful consciousness is, I suppose, what Plato means in the 
phrase which is unhappily translated ‘the lie in the soul* (Republic, 382 a-c). 



The condition of a corrupt consciousness is not only an 
example of untruth, it is an example of evil. The detailed 
tracing of particular evils to this source by psycho-analysts 
is one of the most remarkable and valuable lines of investiga- 
tion initiated by modern science, bearing the same relation 
to the general principles of mental hygiene laid down by 
Spinoza that the detailed inquiries of relativistic physics 
bear to the project for a ‘universal science’ of mathematical 
physics as laid down by Descartes. 

Now, just as we divide untruths into errors and lies, so we 
divide evils into those a man suffers and those he does. 
Where they affect not his relation to his surroundings but 
his own condition, whether bodily or mental, this division 
becomes one between disease and wrongdoing. 

The symptoms and consequences of a corrupt conscious- 
ness come under neither of these headings. They are not 
exactly crimes or vices, because their victim does not choose 
to involve himself in them, and cannot escape from them by 
deciding to amend his conduct. They are not exactly 
diseases, because they are due not to functional disorder or 
to the impact of hostile forces upon the sufferer, but to his 
own self-mismanagement. As compared with disease, they 
are more like vice; as compared with vice, they are more like 

The truth is that they are a kind of sheer or undifferentiated 
evil, evil in itself, as yet undifferentiated into evil suffered 
or misfortune and evil done or wickedness. The question 
whether a man in whom they exist suffers through his mis- 
fortune or through his fault is a question that does not arise. 
He is in a worse state than either of these alternatives would 
imply; for an unfortunate man may still have integrity of 
character, and a wicked man may still be fortunate. A man 
whose consciousness is corrupt has no mitigations, either 
within or without. So far as that corruption masters him, he 
is a lost soul, concerning whom hell is no fable. And 
whether or no the psycho-analysts have found the means to 
rescue him, or to save those in whom this evil has advanced 


less far, their attempt to do so is an enterprise that has 
already won a great place in the history of man’s warfare 
with the powers of darkness. 

§ 8. - Summary 

We have now reached a point where the results of the 
argument can be summarized into a general theory of imagi- 
nation. All thought presupposes feeling; and all the proposi- 
tions which express the results of our thought belong to one 
of two types: they are either statements about feelings, in 
which case they are called empirical, or statements about the 
procedure of thought itself, in which case they are called 
a ■priori. ‘Thought’, here, means intellect; ‘feeling’ means 
not feeling proper, but imagination. 

Feeling proper, or psychical experience, has a double 
character: it is sensation and emotion. We may attend 
chiefly or exclusively to one or the other aspect, but in the 
experience of feeling as it actually comes to us the two are 
firmly united. Every feeling is both sensuous and emotional. 
Now, feeling proper is an experience in which what we now feel 
monopolizes the whole field of our view. What we have felt 
in the past, or shall feel in the future, or might feel on a 
different kind of occasion, is not present to us at all, and has 
no meaning for us. Actually, of course, these things have a 
meaning for us, and we can form some idea of them, some- 
times no doubt a fairly correct one; but that is because we 
are able to do other things besides merely feeling. 

If I assert any relation between what I feel now and what 
I have felt in the past, or what I should expect to feel in 
different circumstances, my assertion cannot be based on 
mere feeling; for mere feeling, even if it can tell me what 
I now feel, cannot acquaint me with the other term of the 
relation. Hence the so-called sense-data which are described 
as organized into families or the like are not feelings as they 
actually come to us, sensa with their own emotional charges; 
they are not even the sensuous element in these feelings 
sterilized of its emotional charge; they are something quite 




different. But further: mere feeling cannot even tell me 
what I now feel. If I try to fasten my attention on this 
present feeling, so as to give myself some account of its 
character, it has already changed before I can do so. If, to 
take the other alternative, I succeed in doing so (and it is 
clear that we do succeed, otherwise we could never know 
the things about feeling which have already been stated), the 
feeling to which I attend must be somehow stabilized or 
perpetuated in order that I may study it, which means that 
it must cease to be mere feeling and enter upon a new stage 
of its existence. 

This new stage is reached not by some process antecedent 
to the act of attention, but by that act itself. Attention or 
awareness is a kind of activity different from mere feeling, 
and presupposing it. The essence of it is that instead of 
having our field of view wholly occupied by the sensations 
and emotions of the moment, we also become aware of 
ourselves, as the activity of feeling these things. Theoretically 
considered, this new activity is an enlargement of our field 
of view, which now takes in the act of feeling as well as 
the thing felt. Practically considered, it is the assertion of 
ourselves as the owners of our feelings. By this self-assertion 
we dominate our feelings : they become no longer experiences 
forcing themselves upon us unawares, but experiences in 
which we experience our own activity. Their brute power 
over us is thus replaced by our power over them : we become 
able on the one hand to stand up to them so that they no 
longer unconditionally determine our conduct, and, on the 
other, to prolong and evoke them at will. From being 
impressions of sense, they thus become ideas of imagination. 

In this new capacity, as losing their power over us and 
becoming subject to our will, they are still feelings, and 
feelings of the same kind as before; but they have ceased to 
be mere sensations and have become what we call imagina- 
tions. From one point of view, imagination does not differ from 
sensation: what we imagine is the very same kinds of things 
(colours, &c.) which present themselves to us in mere 


sensation. From another point of view, it is very different 
through being, in the way above described, tamed or 
domesticated. That which tames it is the activity of con- 
sciousness, and this is a kind of thought. 

Specifically, it is the kind of thought which stands closest 
to sensation or mere feeling. Every further development of 
thought is based upon it, and deals not with feeling in its 
crude form but with feeling as thus transformed into imagina- 
tion . 1 In order to consider likenesses and differences between 
feelings, classify them or group them in other kinds of 
arrangement than classes, envisage them as arranged in a 
time-series, and so forth, it is necessary first that each one 
of the feelings thus reflected upon should be attended to and 
held before the mind as something with a character of its 
own; and this converts it into imagination. 

Consciousness itself does not do any of these things. It 
only prepares the ground for them. In itself, it does nothing 
but attend to some feeling which I have here and now. In 
attending to a present feeling, it perpetuates that feeling, 
though at the cost of turning it into something new, no 
longer sheer or crude feeling (impression) but domesticated 
feeling or imagination (idea). But it does not compare one 
idea with another. If, while I am thus enjoying one idea, 
I proceed to summon up another, the new idea is not held 
alongside the old, as two distinct experiences, between which 
I can detect relations. The two ideas fuse into one, the new 
one presenting itself as a peculiar colouring or modification 
of the old. Thus imagination resembles feeling in this, that 
its object is never a plurality of terms with relations between 
them, but a single indivisible unity: a sheer here-and-now. 

1 Cf. Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, A 78, B 103 (tr. N. K. Smith, p. 112), 
where imagination is described as a ‘blind but indispensable function’ inter- 
mediate between sensation (which means the activity correlative to sensa 
proper, not to the idealized ‘sense-data* of modern empiricism) and under- 
standing. This is the Humian doctrine that knowledge is concerned with ideas, 
not impressions; but Kant did not develop the notion he here suggested, except 
in the highly important (and for the same reason commonly misunderstood) 

rhfl’nfrr rvn thf* nf 1-Vi^ r’af-panrip** 


The conceptions of past, future, the possible, the hypo- 
thetical, are as meaningless for imagination as they are for 
feeling itself. They are conceptions which appear only with 
a further development of thought. 

When, therefore, it is said that imagination can summon 
up feelings at will, this does not mean that when I imagine 
I first form some idea of a feeling and then, as it were, 
summon it into my presence as a real feeling; still less, that 
I can review in fancy the various feelings which I might 
enjoy, and choose to evoke in myself the one which I prefer. 
To form an idea of a feeling is already to feel it in imagination. 
Thus imagination is ‘blind’, i.e. cannot anticipate its own 
results by conceiving them as purposes in advance of execut- 
ing them. The freedom which it enjoys is not the freedom to 
carry out a plan, or to choose between alternative possible 
plans. These are developments belonging to a later stage. 

To the same later stage belongs the distinction between 
truth and error, regarded as the distinction between true and 
false accounts of the relations between things. But there is 
a special way in which that distinction applies to conscious- 
ness, and therefore to imagination. Consciousness can never 
attend to more than a part of the total sensuous-emotional 
field; but either it may recognize this as belonging to itself, 
or it may refuse so to recognize it. In the latter case, certain 
feelings are not ignored, they are disowned; the conscious 
self disclaims responsibility for them, and thus tries to 
escape being dominated by them without the trouble of 
dominating them. This is the ‘corrupt consciousness’, 
which is the source of what psychologists call repression. 
Its imaginations share in its corruption ; they are ‘fantasies’, 
sentimentalized or bowdlerized pictures of experience, 
Spinoza’s ‘inadequate ideas of affections’ ; and the mind that 
takes refuge in them from the facts of experience delivers 
itself into the power of the feelings it has refused to face. 


§ i . Symbol and Expression 

Language comes into existence with imagination, as a feature 
of experience at the conscious level. It is here that it receives 
its original characteristics, which it never altogether loses, 
however much it is modified (a process we shall have to 
examine later on) in adapting itself to the requirements of the 

In its original or native state, language is imaginative 
or expressive: to call it imaginative is to describe what it 
is, to call it expressive is to describe what it does. It is an 
imaginative activity whose function is to express emotion. 
Intellectual language is this same thing intellectualized, or 
modified so as to express thought. I shall try to show in the 
sequel that the expression of any given thought is effected 
through the expression of the emotion accompanying it. 

The distinction between these two functions of language 
has been stated in a good many ways which need not be 
enumerated. 1 One way of putting it is to distinguish language 
proper from symbolism. A symbol (as the Greek word 
indicates) is something arrived at by agreement and accepted 
by the parties to the agreement as valid for a certain pur- 
pose. This is a fair account of how the words in an intellec- 
tualized language come by their meanings, so far as they are 
thoroughly intellectualized, which in fact is seldom very far; 
but it cannot be a true account of language as such, for the 
supposed agreement by which the meaning of a given word is 
settled implies a previous discussion out of which the agree- 
ment is arrived at; and unless language already exists and is 
already capable of stating the point at issue the discussion 
cannot arise. 

1 Dr. Richards’s distinction between ‘the scientific use of language’ and 
‘the emotive use of laneuase’ is considered below, in $ 8. 


Symbolism or intellectualized language thus presupposes 
imaginative language or language proper. There must, 
therefore, be a corresponding relation between the theories 
of the two. But in the traditional theory of language these 
relations are reversed, with disastrous results. Language as 
such is identified with symbolism; and if its expressive 
function is not altogether overlooked an attempt is made to 
explain it as a secondary function somehow arrived at by 
modifying the symbolic function. When Hobbes ( Leviathan , 
i. iv) says that the primary use of speech is for ‘acquisition of 
science’, for which purpose ‘the right definition of names’ 
is the first requisite, clearly, he is identifying language in 
general with intellectualized language or symbolism. Locke, 
in defining a word as a sound which is made the sign of an 
idea (Essay, hi. i, § 3), is less explicit in his statement of the 
error; but none the less, on the whole, he takes it for granted. 
Berkeley, though in general he takes the same view, recog- 
nizes a second use of words, ‘to wit, the influencing of our 
conduct and actions; which may be done either by forming 
rules for us to act by, or by raising certain passions, disposi- 
tions, and emotions in our minds’ (Alciphron, vii; Works , ed. 
Fraser, ii. 327). The distinction is important; but this 
second usage is still an intellectualized use, in so far as the 
activity of finding means to a given end (the influencing 
of some one’s conduct, &c.) is an intellectual activity. To 
use language as a means for raising a certain passion in 
another is not the same thing as using it to express one’s own. 

To-day it is almost an orthodoxy that language as such 
is symbolic in the above sense of the word. If that is so, 
certain results follow. Every symbol, for the sake of accuracy 
in usage, ought to be used in a single invariable sense, and 
defined with precision. Consequently, if we are to use 
language well, every word should be thus used and thus 
defined. If this is found impracticable (and it always will be 
found impracticable) the inference is that ‘ordinary’ languages 
are ill designed for their purpose, and ought to be replaced 
for the expression of accurate thinking by a scientifically 


planned ‘philosophical language’. Another consequence is 
that just as every one, before he can begin to use a symbol 
in mathematics or the like, must be told what it means, so 
in a child’s original acquisition of his mother tongue every 
word he is to use must first be explained to him; and it is 
actually supposed that this comes about by its mother, or 
other instructor, pointing to the fire and saying ‘fire’, giving 
it milk and saying ‘milk’, touching its toe and saying ‘toe’, 
and so forth. When the fact comes out that when a mother 
points to the fire she probably says ‘pretty’, when giving it 
milk, ‘nice’, and when touching its toe, ‘this little pig went 
to market’, the conclusion can only be expressed in the 
words of a (possibly mythical) schoolmaster: ‘parents are the 
last people in the world who ought to be allowed to have 

The reason why no mother teaches language in this way 
is that it could not possibly be done ; for the supposed gestures 
of pointing and so forth are themselves in the nature of 
a language. Either the child has first to be taught this 
language of gestures, in order to help it in learning English, 
or it must be supposed to ‘tumble to’ the gesture language 
for itself. But if it can do that, we want to know how it does 
it, when a cat cannot (for you can never teach a cat what you 
mean by pointing), and, if so, why it cannot (as in fact it does) 
‘tumble’ in the same way to English. 

Actually, if the linguistic theorist can obtain access to a 
nursery, he will find something very different going on. He 
will hear the mother not enunciating single words to her 
child, but pouring out a flood of talk mostly devoted not to 
the naming of certain things but to the expression of her 
pleasure in its society; the child replies with gurglings and 
cooings; as time goes on, these become more articulate, 
and sooner or later the child is heard imitating in a garbled 
form phrases which it has heard on certain kinds of occa- 
sion, when new occasions arise which seem to call for them. 
Its mother may have been in the habit of saying in her baby- 
talk. when removinpr its bonnet. ‘Hattv off!’: and. if so. 


when it takes its own bonnet off and throws it out of the 
perambulator it will say in tones of great satisfaction, 
‘Hattiaw 1* 

Now, the sound ‘hattiaw’ is not a symbol. The mother 
and child have not agreed between themselves that it shall 
mean ‘removal of hat’. The child regards it as a noise made 
when one takes a hat off. Hearing its mother make that noise 
goes with having her remove its hat; and consequently 
making that noise for itself goes with removing the hat for 
itself. The relation between making the noise and removing 
the hat has for it no resemblance whatever to the relation (of 
which it has yet no conception) between the symbol + and 
the act of adding two numbers. Still less, of course, does it 
conceive the sound as a combination of two symbols, one 
signifying a hat and the other removal. Unhatting itself is 
a single act, and the sound which one makes in performing 
it is a single sound. Phonetic analysis of the sound into a 
number of consonants and vowels, or grammatical analysis 
of it into a number of words, is as far beyond the child as 
anatomical analysis of the act into a number of muscular 

It would be nearer the truth, in denying that ‘hattiaw* 
is a symbol, to call it an expression. It does not express the 
act of removing the hat, but it expresses the peculiar satis- 
faction which for some reason the child takes in removing 
it. That is to say, it expresses the feeling which it has in 
doing that act. More strictly, it is not the sound ‘hattiaw’, 
but the act of making this sound, that is expressive. To say 
that one act expresses another act would be to talk nonsense; 
to say that it expresses a feeling certainly means something. 
We must try to determine what it means. 

§ 2. Psychical Expression 

In order to do this, we must begin by observing that 
linguistic expression is not the only kind of expression, and 
not the most primitive kind. There is another kind, which 
unlike linguistic expression occurs independently of con- 


sciousness and is a feature of experience at its purely psychical 
level. This I shall call psychical expression. 

It consists in the doing of involuntary and perhaps even 
wholly unconscious bodily acts, related in a peculiar way to 
the emotions they are said to express. Thus, certain dis- 
tortions of the face express pain; a slackening of muscles 
and a cold pallor of the skin express fear; and so forth. In 
these cases, we feel the emotion expressed and also feel the 
bodily act, or complex of acts, expressing it. The relation 
between these, to which we refer when we say that the act 
expresses the emotion, is of course a relation of necessary 
connexion, and asymmetrical: we grimace ‘because’ we 
feel pain, not vice versa. But the word ‘because’ is used to 
indicate any kind of dependence, and does not distinguish 
one kind from another. 

The connexion is in one way like that between a sensum 
and its emotional charge, namely, in the fact of its immediacy ; 
the two things connected are not two distinct experiences, 
but are elements in one indivisible experience. The sensum 
of muscular tension, when one’s face is screwed up with pain, 
is as intimately connected with the pain as the sensum of 
scarlet which terrified a child, in our earlier example, with 
the terror it produced. But though the two cases are alike 
in the intimacy of the union between their elements, the 
structural order of the elements is different, and indeed 
opposite. The terror is the emotional charge of the colour, 
and the colour sensum is logically (though not temporally) 
prior to it. The pain is not the emotional charge of the 
tension in the facial muscles; the sensum is here not prior 
but posterior to the emotion. 

The two cases have, in fact, been incompletely described. 
In the first, we have omitted the original sensum (for 
example, an intestinal gripe); in the second, we have omitted 
the expression of the child’s terror, a complex reaction which 
may be described as cringing. These omissions once made 
good, the two cases are parallel; and we get an analysis 
which, by recognizing the element of psychical expression, 


supplements the account of the frightened child given in 

Chapter VIII. 

We have now (i) a sensum of scarlet (or rather, a visual 
field containing that colour), (2) terror as the emotional 
charge on that field, (3) the cringing which expresses that 
terror. In the other case we have (1) the abdominal gripe as 
a sensum (or rather, a field of organic sensation containing 
that visceral sensum), (2) the pain which is the emotional 
charge upon it, (3) the grimace expressing that pain. Each 
case is one single experience, in which analysis reveals three 
elements in a definite structural order. 

Every kind and shade of emotion which occurs at the 
purely psychical level of experience has its counterpart in 
some change of the muscular or circulatory or glandular 1 
system which, in the sense of the word now under discussion, 
expresses it. Whether these changes are observed and 
correctly interpreted depends on the skill of the observer. 
So far as we can see, nothing but lack of this skill prevents 
us from reading like an open book the psychical emotions 
of every one with whom we have to do. But observing and 
interpreting is an intellectual process; and this is not the 
only way in which psychical expression conveys a meaning. 
There is a kind of emotional contagion which takes effect 
without any intellectual activity; without the presence even 
of consciousness. This is a familiar fact, alarming because 
it seems so inexplicable, in man. The spread of panic through 
a crowd is not due to each person’s being independently 
frightened, nor to any communication by speech; it happens 
in the complete absence of these things, each person be- 
coming terrified simply because his neighbour is terrified. 
The psychical expression of fear in one person appears to 
another as a complex of sensa immediately charged with 
terror. Fear is not the only emotion that is thus contagious; 

1 Not the endocrine system only. Even men, whose sense of smell is so 
feeble, can discover that certain emotions in their fellow men occasion peculiar 
scents by causing glandular discharges. To an animal whose sense of smell 
is so acute as a dog’s, I suppose there is a ‘language* of scent as expressive as 
the ‘language’ of involuntary facial gesture is to us. 

language 231 

the same thing happens with any emotion belonging to the 
level of psychical experience. Thus the mere sight of some 
one in pain, or the sound of his groans, produces in us an echo 
of his pain, whose expression in our own body we can feel 
in the tingling or shrinking of skin areas, certain visceral 
sensa, and so forth. 

This ‘sympathy’ (the simplest and best name for the 
contagion I have' described) exists visibly among animals 
other than man, and between animals of different species; 
notably, for example, between man and his domestic 
animals. A dog will snap at a man because it is afraid of 
him; and the best way to make a dog bite you is to feel 
frightened of it. However successfully you think you are 
concealing your nervousness, the dog feels it; or rather he 
feels the nervousness in himself which he has thus caught 
from you. The same relation exists between men and wild 

How this contagion ‘takes’ will depend, of course, on the 
psychical structure of the mind that takes it. Terror in a 
rabbit will communicate itself to a pursuing dog not as 
terror but as a desire to kill, for a dog has the psychical 
‘nature’ of a hunting animal. Every one knows that dogs 
chase cats because cats run away; the cat’s exhibition of fear 
produces in the dog, not an argument running thus : ‘this 
cat is afraid of me; it evidently thinks I can kill it, so I 
suppose I can; here goes’, but an immediate response in the 
shape of aggressive emotion. 

Psychical expression is the only expression of which 
psychical emotions are capable (they can only be expressed 
otherwise by being themselves transformed through the 
activity of consciousness from impressions into ideas, as we 
shall see in the next section); but psychical emotions are not 
the only ones that can be psychically expressed. There is 
a certain group of emotions which arise only through the 
consciousness of self. Hatred, love, anger, and shame may 
be taken as examples. Hatred is a feeling of antagonism; 
it is an attitude towards something which we regard as 



thwarting our own desires, or inflicting pain upon us, 1 and 
this presupposes awareness of ourselves. Love is a feeling 
towards something with which we feel our own existence to 
be bound up, so that a benefit or injury to it is a benefit or 
injury to ourselves. Anger, though unlike hate it does not 
involve the idea of any particular thing or person that angers 
us, is like it in being a consciousness of ourselves as baulked 
or opposed. Shame is the consciousness of our own weakness 
or ineffectiveness. 

These ‘emotions of consciousness’, unlike the purely 
psychical emotions, admit of expression in language: in a 
phrase, a controlled gesture, or the like. But they also have 
their own special psychical expressions, for example, the 
blush of shame, accompanied by muscular relaxation; or 
the flush of anger with muscular tension and rigidity. Now, 
a psychical emotion is the emotional charge on a sensum; 
but an emotion of consciousness is the emotional charge not 
on a sensum but on a certain mode of consciousness. Hence, 
if we ask ‘What is the sensum upon which shame is the emo- 
tional charge ?’ and find (quite correctly) that no sensum is 
present except those of hot skin and relaxed muscles, we may 
reject the common-sense view that we blush because we 
are ashamed, and propound the startling discovery that we are 
ashamed because we blush. But all we have done is to beget 
a paradox on a misunderstanding. To the series (1) scarlet 
colour, (2) fear, (3) cringing, in the case of psychical emo- 
tions, the corresponding series in an emotion of conscious- 
ness is (x) consciousness of our own inferiority (which is not 
a sensum but a mode of consciousness), (2) shame, (3) 
blushing. The common-sense view is right, and the James- 
Lange theory wrong. 

Why should emotions of consciousness be thus expressible 
in two quite different ways ? The answer lies in the relation 
between any one level of experience and the next above it. 
The higher level differs from the lower in having a new 

1 ‘Odium est tristitia (sc. transitus a maioread minorem perfectionem) con- 
comitante idea causae externae.’ Spinoza, Ethics, in, Jffectuurn definitions ,vii. 


principle of organization; this does not supersede the old, 
it is superimposed on it. The lower type of experience is 
perpetuated in the higher type in a way somewhat like 
(though not identical with) the way in which a pre-existing 
matter is perpetuated when a new form is imposed on it. 
We shall avail ourselves of this resemblance and use it 
metaphorically as a description. In this metaphorical sense 
of the words, any new and higher level of experience can be 
described in either of two ways. Formally, it is something 
quite new and unique, capable of being described only in 
terms of itself. Materially, it is only a peculiar combination 
of elements already existing at the lower level, and suscep- 
tible of description in terms of these lower elements. Con- 
sciousness (to apply this distinction) is formally unique, 
altogether unlike anything that can be found in merely 
psychical experience. Materially, it is only a certain new 
arrangement of psychical experiences. A mode of conscious- 
ness like shame is thus, formally, a mode of consciousness 
and nothing else; materially, it is a constellation or synthesis 
of psychical experiences. 

The two ways in which it can be expressed correspond 
with these two sides of its nature. But when it is called a 
constellation or synthesis, this does not mean that there is 
a putting together of elements which first existed separately, 
and that the new quality of consciousness (in this case, 
shame) was a mere resultant ‘emerging’ from that combina- 
tion. Had that been the case, the James-Lange theory would 
never have been invented; for we could easily have identified 
the various sensa upon which, as thus combined, shame is 
the emotional charge. The fact that this cannot be done is 
experimental proof that the ‘emergence’ theory is, in this 
case at least, mistaken; and that so far from consciousness 
being merely a new pattern-quality emerging from a particular 
way of combining psychical experiences, it is an activity by 
which those elements are combined in this particular way. 

One other aspect of this dual expressiveness may be 
mentioned. If experience is really organized into different 


levels so that each provides for the next a matter upon 
which new form is to be imposed, each level must organize 
itself according to its own principles before a transition can 
be made to the next; for until that has been done, the raw 
material needed for the creation of the next is not forth- 
coming. Emotions of consciousness can be expressed, we 
have seen, in two ways: formally, as modes of consciousness; 
materially, as constellations of psychic elements. If the 
level of consciousness is a level beyond which there lies 
another, namely the level of intellect, as we have been 
supposing, it follows that the emotions of consciousness must 
be formally or linguistically expressed, not only materially 
or psychically expressed, before a transition can be made 
from the level of consciousness to that of intellect: for their 
formal or linguistic expression is a necessary element in the 
consolidation of experience at the level of consciousness. 
The merely material expression of such emotions, on the 
contrary, is a retrograde step, which by reducing the con- 
scious level to terms of the psychical impedes the develop- 
ment of experience towards its higher levels. Not that this 
material expression is in itself retrograde; on the contrary, 
it is the way in which consciousness asserts its domination 
over psychical experience as such, by creating a new com- 
bination of its elements; but if it could go unsupplemented 
by formal expression, it would indicate a mind unwilling 
to test its fate in further adventures. 

§ 3. Imaginative Expression 

The peculiarity of psychical expression lies in its being 
completely uncontrollable. Physiologically considered, a 
grimace of pain or a start of fear is an action ; but as it occurs 
in us, it is something that simply comes to us and over- 
whelms us. It has the same character of brute givenness 1 
which belongs to the emotions it expresses, and the sensa of 
which these are the emotional charge. This is merely the 
general character of experience at its purely psychical level. 

1 For the meaning of this, see pp. 206-14: e.g. 'brute violence’, p. 214. 


At the level of awareness a certain change occurs. For 
brute givenness is substituted the consciousness of experience 
as our own experience, something belonging to us and 
dominated by our power of thought. This change affects 
all the three elements distinguished in the foregoing section. 
The way in which it affects the sensuous and emotional 
elements has been discussed at length in the preceding 
chapters. We saw that the work of consciousness converts 
impressions of brute sense and brute emotion into ideas, 
something which we no longer simply feel but feel in that 
new way which we call imagining. We have now to consider 
how the same change affects the bodily act of expression, 
raising it from the crudely psychical level to the imaginative. 

The general nature of this change can be expressed by 
saying that just as our emotions no longer arise in us as brute 
facts, but are now dominated in such a way that we can 
summon them up, suppress them, or alter them by an act 
of which we are conscious as our own act and therefore as 
free, even though it cannot be called purposive or selective; 
so the bodily acts which express these emotions, instead of 
being simply automatisms of our psycho-physical organism, 
are experienced in our new self-consciousness as activities 
belonging to ourselves, and controlled in the same sense as 
the emotions they express. 

Bodily actions expressing certain emotions, in so far as 
they come under our control and are conceived by us, in our 
awareness of controlling them, as our way of expressing these 
emotions, are language. The word ‘language’ is here used 
not in its narrow and etymologically proper sense to denote 
activities of our vocal organs, but in a wider sense in which 
it includes any activity of any organ which is expressive in 
the same way in which speech is expressive. In this wide 
sense, language is simply bodily expression of emotion, 
dominated by thought in its primitive form as consciousness. 

Language here exists in its absolutely original shape. It 
has a long way still to travel. Later, it has to be profoundly 
modified in order to meet the demands of intellect. But any 


theory of language must begin here. If we begin by studying 
the result of these further modifications, the language we 
use for expressing our thoughts concerning the world around 
us and the structure of thought itself, and take this highly 
developed and highly specialized form of language as repre- 
senting the universal and fundamental character of language 
as such, we shall get nowhere. The grammatical and logical 
articulations of intellectualized language are no more 
fundamental to language as such than the articulations of 
bone and limb are fundamental to living tissue. Beneath all 
the elaboration of specialized organisms lies the primitive 
life of the cell; beneath all the machinery of word and 
sentence lies the primitive language of mere utterance, the 
controlled act in which we express our emotions. 

Materially, this act does not differ at all from that of 
psychical expression. As an idea differs from an impression 
not in its own intrinsic nature, but in its relation to the 
general structure of experience, so an expressive act may be 
an act of precisely the same kind, whether its expressiveness 
is psychical or imaginative. Every one who is accustomed to 
looking after small children, in addition to distinguishing the 
cry of pain from the cry of hunger and so forth — various 
kinds of psychical expression — learns to distinguish the 
automatic cry of uncontrolled emotion from the self- 
conscious cry which seems (through a certain exaggeration 
on the listener’s part) deliberately uttered in order to call 
attention to its needs and to scold the person to whom it 
seems addressed for not attending to them. The second cry 
is still a mere cry; it is not yet speech; but it is language. It 
stands in a new relation to the child’s experience as a whole. 
It is the cry of a child aware of itself and asserting itself. 
With that utterance, language is born; its articulation into 
fully developed speech in English or French or some other 
vernacular is only a matter of detail. The crucial difference 
lies in this, that the child, instead of making a certain noise 
automatically and involuntarily, has learnt to make it, as we 
say, 'on purpose’; by which we mean, not that it has a 


purpose in the strict sense, a plan preposition sibi , a fore- 
knowledge of what is to be done in advance of setting out 
to do it, but that its action is controlled instead of being 

The merely psychical expression of emotion is already 
highly differentiated; but this is nothing to the differentia- 
tion achieved by language. Before it begins to control its 
cries and convert them into utterances, a child certainly cries 
in a considerable number of ways, to express emotions of 
different kinds. But these ways are very few, compared with 
the kinds of sound which it learns to make when once it has 
learnt the art of controlled utterance. These differentiations 
would not be made and retained 1 unless they w'ere needed ; 
and the reason why so many are needed is because the 
emotional life of conscious experience is so immensely richer 
than that of experience at its psychical level. Quite apart 
from the specifically new emotions of consciousness, of 
which something was said in the preceding section, the 
conversion of impression into idea by the work of conscious- 
ness immensely multiplies the emotions that demand 
expression. At the level of merely psychical experience, 
what I hear at the present moment is one noise, carry- 
ing one emotional charge. If I bring my attention to bear 
on this, I can hear in it several different traffic-noises, 
several different bird-songs, the tick of my clock, the scratch 
of my pen, a step on the stair, each isolated from the rest 
by the focusing work of attention, and each carrying an 
emotional charge of its own. By further acts of attention I 
can recover sounds which still ring in my memory, though 
I should describe myself as not actually hearing them at the 
moment: the harsh January song of the thrush to whose 
mellow May notes I am now listening, the typewriter which 
is sometimes at work in the next room, and so forth. For all 

1 I have heard a child spend an hour or two each morning, at the age of 
about six months, experimenting in the production of vocal sounds, and 
discovering for itself in this way numerous sounds not existing in English 
(e.g. Arabic consonants) which it gradually ceased to practise when it found 
them not required in its mother-tongue. 


these experiences the conscious mind must devise expressions, 
where purely psychical experience, hearing one noise with 
one emotional tone, would need only one. Thus the imagina- 
tive experience creates for itself, by an infinite work of 
refraction and reflection and condensation and dispersal, an 
infinity of emotions demanding for their expression an 
infinite subtlety in the articulations of the language it creates 
in expressing them. 

To whatever level of experience an emotion may belong, 
it cannot be felt without being expressed. There are no 
unexpressed emotions. At the psychical level this is easy to 
see; a psychical emotion, if felt at all, is psychically expressed 
by an automatic reaction of the animal that feels it. At the 
conscious level it is not so obvious. We are accustomed, 
indeed, to believe the opposite; we commonly think that 
the artist’s business is to find expressions for emotions which 
he already feels before expressing them. But this belief 
cannot be true, if the expressions which he invents are 
appropriate to the emotions they express; for his expressions 
are conscious expressions, consciously invented, and these 
can be appropriate only to emotions which themselves belong 
to the conscious level of experience. It is not all emotions 
that can be expressed in language, but only emotions of 
consciousness or psychical emotions raised to the level of 
consciousness; and the same consciousness which generates 
these emotions or converts them from impressions into ideas 
generates also and simultaneously their appropriate linguistic 

What, then, do we mean when we say that the artist finds 
expression for an emotion hitherto unexpressed? We mean 
that an emotion belonging to the conscious level of experi- 
ence has a dual nature, ‘material’ and ‘formal’. Materially it 
is a certain constellation of psychic emotions; formally, it is 
a conscious emotion. Now a constellation of psychic emo- 
tions is simply a number of psychic emotions, each of 
which has already its appropriate psychic expression. A 
person who becomes conscious of himself as feeling these 


psychic emotions is thereby generating in himself a conscious 
emotion, formally distinct from each and all of them; and 
simultaneously generating a conscious expression for it. 
Thus, what are called unexpressed emotions are emotions at 
one level of experience, already expressed in the way appro- 
priate to that level, of which the person who feels them is 
trying to become conscious : that is, trying to convert into the 
material of an experience at a higher level, which when he 
achieves it will be at once an emotion at this higher level 
and an expression appropriate to it. 

Let us now return to the case which I described at the 
beginning of this chapter, and ask what light has been 
thrown upon it by the intervening discussions. A child 
throws its bonnet off its head and into the road with the 
exclamation ‘Hattiaw’. By comparison with the self- 
conscious cry discussed earlier in the present section, this 
represents a highly developed and sophisticated use of 
language. To begin with, consider the emotion involved. 
The child might remove its bonnet because it felt physically 
uncomfortable in it, hot or tickled or the like; but the 
satisfaction expressed by the cry of ‘Hattiaw’ is not a merely 
psycho-physical pleasure like that of rubbing a fly off the 
nose. What is expressed is a sense of triumph, an emotion 
arising out of the possession of self-consciousness. The 
child is proving itself as good a man as its mother, who has 
previously taken its bonnet off with the words it is now 
imitating; better than its mother, because now she has put 
the bonnet on and wants it to stay on, so there is a conflict 
of wills in which the child feels himself victor. 

This feeling, like any feeling, has to be expressed in a 
bodily action. As it is a feeling arising from self-conscious- 
ness, that is, at the imaginative level of experience, it must 
be expressed in a controlled action, an action done ‘on 
purpose’, not a merely automatic one. But there are two 
controlled actions in the case. There is the throwing off of 
the bonnet, and there is the cry of triumph. Why should not 
one be enough for the purpose ? 


The relation between the removal of the bonnet and the 
cry is parallel to the relation, in the preceding section, 
between the terrifying colour and the terrified start. These, 
it will be remembered, occupied the first and third places in 
a series constituting a single indivisible experience, where 
the second place was filled by the emotion of fear. In the 
present case, the removal of the bonnet stands in the first 
place; the emotion of triumph in the second; the cry in the 
third. These together form a single experience, the experi- 
ence of triumph over the child’s mother. 

This experience is an achievement of the child’s self- 
consciousness. It arises out of another experience belonging 
to the same level, namely, the child’s finding itself in the 
condition of being all dressed up and wheeled about in a 
perambulator with a safety-strap round its waist. By the 
operation of its own self-consciousness, it discovers itself to 
be in this state, and recognizes the state as one brought about 
by its mother’s will, without its own consent. It therefore 
feels humiliated. At this stage two courses are open to it, 
though of course it does not know that; it does not choose, 
it simply acts as its nature prompts it. It might find some 
way of escaping from the situation, by taking refuge in some 
action not really relevant to it; for example, bursting into 
peevish tears of futile because undeserved self-pity. Or it 
might respond directly to the situation by some act proving 
that, after all, it is not a baby but a real person. It takes the 
second alternative. It throws off the symbol of its babyhood; 
its heart leaps up with a sense of triumph; and, to express 
that emotion, with admirable and ironic fitness it steals its 
mother’s thunder, using (as nearly as it can command them) 
the very words with which she has expressed her superiority 
over itself. 

We may state this, if we like, by saying that the child is 
‘imitating’ its mother. But that is a bad word to use, because 
it tends to burke inquiry into why and how such imitation 
takes place. Attempts have been made to explain the origin 
of language in the child by reference to a supposed instinct 


of imitation, v/hich leads it to copy whatever it finds others 
doing, and thus, when it finds them speaking, to acquire the 
same art itself. But, supposing there were such an instinct, 
the behaviour prompted by it would never become language 
unless it were so far released from the automatic control of 
the supposed instinct as to come under the conscious control 
of the child’s will, so as to express what the child wants it to 
express. This can happen only if and when the child becomes 
self-conscious. But when that happens, the child will begin 
to talk without the operation of this instinct. The supposed 
instinct of imitation, therefore, being one of those entities 
which ought not to be multiplied beyond necessity, is an 
idle fiction. The only possible use it can have is to explain 
how the child, before reaching the self-conscious level of 
experience, could already familiarize itself with a large 
number of bodily movements which, when that level is 
reached, could be used as language. Actually, a child begins 
to acquire the detailed movements of speech only when its 
consciousness has already developed to the point of needing 
them. It imitates the speech of others because it already 
realizes that they are speaking. 

§ 4. Language and Languages 

We have been using the word ‘language’ to signify any 
controlled and expressive bodily activity, no matter what 
part of the body is involved. There is a tendency to think 
that there is only one such activity, or at least one which 
enormously outdistances any other in expressiveness, 
namely speech, or the activities of the vocal organs. Some- 
times it is suggested that there is a physiological reason for 
this supposed fact, namely, that by using our vocal organs 
we can perform a variety of actions more subtly differen- 
tiated, and therefore more suitable for development into a 
language, than by using any other combination of organs. 
It seems more than doubtful whether either the original 
belief, or the reason given for it, is true. Probably any one 
of a number of kinds of bodily action is as suitable for 


expressive use, intrinsically, as any other; and the pre-emin- 
ence of one over the rest would seem to depend on the historical 
development of this or that civilization. All speakers do not 
use all parts of the vocal machinery alike. Germans speak 
more with the larynx, Frenchmen more with the lips. It is 
very probable that, because of this difference, Frenchmen 
have a finer control over lip-movements and Germans over 
throat-movements; but it is certainly not true that the differ- 
ence itself is based on a physiological difference independent 
of it and prior to it, a difference of organic structure in 
virtue of which Germans are more sensitive in the larynx 
and Frenchmen in the front of the mouth. Had that been 
the case, these special sensitivities would be biological 
characteristics, inherited like skull-shape and pigmentation; 
and the ability to speak French or German in the proper 
way would depend on the speaker’s pedigree. This is 
notoriously not the case. The groupings recognized by 
physical anthropology do not coincide with those of cultural 

If Frenchmen find lip-movements more expressive than 
throat-movements, and Germans the opposite, the same 
kind of difference may exist as between movements of the 
vocal organs and various other kinds of movement. A dispute 
between Italian peasants is conducted hardly more in words 
than in a highly elaborated language of manual gesture. 
Here again, there is no physiological basis for the difference. 
Italians do not possess more sensitive fingers than northern 
Europeans. But they have a long tradition of controlled 
finger-gesture, going back to the ancient game of micare 

Vocal language is thus only one among many possible 
languages or orders of languages. Any of these might, by 
a particular civilization, be developed into a highly organized 
form of emotional expression. It is sometimes fancied that 
although any one of these languages might express emotion, 
vocal language has an exclusive, or at least a pre-eminent, 
function i h the expression of thought. Even if this were 


true, it would not be of interest at the present stage in our 
discussion, for we are now dealing with language as it is 
before being adapted to serve the purposes of thought. As 
a matter of fact, it is probably not true. There is a story that 
Buddha once, at the climax of a philosophical discussion, 
broke into gesture-language as an Oxford philosopher may 
break into Greek : he took a flower in his hand, and looked 
at it; one of his disciples smiled, and the master said to him, 
‘You have understood me.’ 

Speech is after all only a system of gestures, having the 
peculiarity that each gesture produces a characteristic sound, 
so that it can be perceived through the ear as well as through 
the eye. Listening to a speaker instead of looking at him 
tends to make us think of speech as essentially a system of 
sounds; but it is not; essentially it is a system of gestures 
made with the lungs and larynx, and the cavities of the mouth 
and nose. We get still farther away from the fundamental 
facts about speech when we think of it as something that 
can be written and read, forgetting that what writing, in our 
clumsy notations, can represent is only a small part of the 
spoken sound, where pitch and stress, tempo and rhythm, 
are almost entirely ignored. But even a writer or reader, 
unless the words are to fall flat and meaningless, must 
speak them soundlessly to himself. The written or printed 
book is only a series of hints, as elliptical as the neumes of 
Byzantine music, from which the reader thus works out for 
himself the speech-gestures which alone have the gift of 

All the different kinds of language have a relation of this 
kind to bodily gesture. The art of painting is intimately 
bound up with the expressiveness of the gestures made by 
the hand in drawing, and of the imaginary gestures through 
which a spectator of a painting appreciates its ‘tactile values’. 
Instrumental music has a similar relation to silent movements 
of the larynx, gestures of the player’s hand, and real or 
imaginary movements, as of dancing, in the audience. Every 
kind of language is in this way a specialized form of bodily 


gesture, and in this sense it may be said that the dance is the 
mother of all languages. 

This is what justifies the paradox of the behaviourists, 
that thought is nothing but the movements of the vocal 
organs which are commonly said to express it. For thought 
we must read in the present context emotion, and emotion at 
the imaginative level, not the merely psychic. For the vocal 
organs we must read the entire body; since speech is only 
one form of gesture. As thus corrected, the doctrine is true in 
this important sense: that the expression of emotion is not, 
as it were, a dress made to fit an emotion already existing, 
but is an activity without which the experience of that 
emotion cannot exist. Take away the language, and you 
take away what it expressed; there is nothing left but crude 
feeling at the merely psychic level. 

Different civilizations have developed for their own use 
different languages; not merely different forms of speech, 
distinguished as English from French and so on, but different 
in a much deeper way. We have seen how Buddha expressed 
a philosophical idea in a gesture, and how the Italian peasant 
uses his fingers hardly less expressively than his tongue. 
The habit of going heavily clothed cramps the expressiveness 
of all bodily parts except the face; if the clothing were heavy 
enough, only those gestures would retain their expressiveness 
which can be appreciated without being seen, such as those 
of the vocal organs; except so far as the clothes themselves 
were expressive. The cosmopolitan civilization of modern 
Europe and # America, with its tendency towards rigidly 
uniform dress , 1 has limited our expressive activities almost 

1 Even so, dress is a kind of language; but when it is rigidly uniform the 
only emotions which it can express are emotions common to those who wear it. 
The habit of wearing it focuses the attention of the wearer on emotions of 
this kind, and at once generates and expresses a permanant ‘set’ or habit of 
consciously feeling in the corresponding way. Rupert Brooke noticed that 
Americans ‘walk better than we; more freely, with a taking swing, and almost 
with grace. How much of this’, he adds, ‘is due to living in a democracy, and 
how much to wearing no braces, it is very difficult to determine’ ( Letters 
from America , p. 16). Dropping the uniform carries with it a curious 
breach in the emotional habit; Mulvaney found that on discarding his 


entirely to the voice, and naturally tries to justify itself by 
asserting that the voice is the best medium for expression. 

But different languages are not related to one and the 
same set of feelings like his different suits of clothes to one 
and the same man. If there is no such thing as an unex- 
pressed feeling, there is no way of expressing the same feeling 
in two different media. This is true both of the relation 
between different systems of speech and of the relation 
between vocal language and other forms of language. An 
Englishman who can talk French, if he reflects on his own 
experience, knows very well that he feels differently when 
he talks a different tongue. The English tongue will only 
express English emotions; to talk French you must adopt 
the emotions of a Frenchman. To be multilingual is to be 
a chameleon of the emotions. Still more clearly is it true 
that the emotions which we express in music can never be 
expressed in speech, and vice versa. Music is one order of 
languages and speech is another ; each expresses what it does 
express with absolute clarity and precision; but what they 
express is two different types of emotion, each proper to 
itself. The same is true of manual gesture. Contempt may 
be expressed by shouting an insult at a man or by snapping 
your fingers under his nose, as joy may be expressed in a 
poem or a symphony; but with a difference; the precise 
kind of contempt which is expressed in the one way cannot 
be expressed in the other. 

Now, if a person acquires the ability to express one kind 
of emotions and not another, the result will be that he knows 

trousers and donning a loin-cloth he began to feel like an Indian native 
(Kipling, The Incarnation of Krishna Muhaney), The consciousness of 
sharing uniform dress with a circle of others is thus a consciousness of emo- 
tional solidarity with them; and this, on its negative side, takes the form of 
emotional hostility towards persons outside that circle. To illustrate this 
from the history of parties and classes is superfluous. It may be worth while 
to point out that in the liberal political theory, where rivalry between policies 
is dissociated from emotional hostility between the persons supporting them, 
it is essential that parties should not be distinguished by uniforms. Put your 
parties into uniform, and the difference of their policies becomes at once a less 
important division between them than their emotional hostility. 


the one kind to be in him, but not the other. These others 
will be in him as mere brute feelings, never mastered and 
controlled, but either concealed in the darkness of his own 
self-ignorance or breaking in upon him in the shape of 
passion-storms which he can neither control nor understand. 
Consequently, if a civilization loses all power of expression 
except through the voice, and then asserts that the voice is 
the best expressive medium, it is simply saying that it knows 
of nothing in itself that is worth expressing except what can 
be thus expressed ; and that is a tautology, for it merely means 
‘what we (members of this particular society) do not know 
we do not know', except so far as it suggests the addition : 
‘and we do not wish to find out.’ 

I said that ‘the dance is the mother of all languages’ ; this 
demands further explanation. I meant that every kind or 
order of language (speech, gesture, and so forth) was an off- 
shoot from an original language of total bodily gesture. This 
would have to be a language in which every movement and 
every stationary poise of every part of the body had the same 
kind of significance which movements of the vocal organs 
possess in a spoken language. A person using it would be 
speaking with every part of himself. Now, in calling this an 
‘original’ language, I am not indulging (God forbid) in that 
kind of a ■priori archaeology which attempts to reconstruct 
man’s distant past without any archaeological data. I do not 
place it in the remote past. I place it in the present. I mean 
that each one of us, whenever he expresses himself, is doing 
so with his whole body, and is thus actually talking in this 
‘original’ language of total bodily gesture. This may seem 
absurd. Some peoples, we know, cannot talk without waving 
their hands and shrugging their shoulders and waving their 
bodies about, but others can and do. That is no objection 
to what I am saying. Rigidity is a gesture, no less than 
movement. If there were people who never talked unless 
they were standing stiffly at attention, it would be because 
that gesture was expressive of a permanent emotional habit 
which they felt obliged to express concurrently with any 

LAN G U AG E 247 

other emotion they might happen to be expressing. This 
‘original’ language of total bodily gesture is thus the one 
and only real language, which everybody who is in any way 
expressing himself is using all the time. What we call speech 
and the other kinds of language are only parts of it which 
have undergone specialized development ; in this specialized 
development they never come altogether detached from the 
parent organism. 

This parent organism is nothing but the totality of our 
motor activities, raised from the psychical level to the con- 
scious level. It is our bodily activity as that of which we are 
conscious. But that which is raised from the psychical level 
to the conscious level is converted by the work of conscious- 
ness from impression to idea, from object of sensation to 
object of imagination. The language of total bodily gesture 
is thus the motor side of our total imaginative experience. 
This last phrase was used in Chapter VII, § 6, as a name for 
the work of art proper. We are now beginning to see that the 
theory of art which is going to emerge from Book II will 
either consist in, or at least involve, the identification of art 
with language. 

§ 5. Speaker and Hearer 1 

In its most elementary form, language is not addressed 
to any audience. A child’s first utterances are so completely 
unaddressed that one cannot even describe them as addressed 
to the world at large or to itself. The distinction between 
speaking to oneself, speaking to the world at large, and 
speaking to a particular person or group, is a later differen- 
tiation introduced into an original act which was simply the 
act of speaking. Now, speech is a function of self-conscious- 
ness ; therefore, even at this early stage, a speaker is conscious 
of himself as speaking, and is thus a listener to himself. The 
experience of speaking is also an experience of listening. 

The origin of self-consciousness, whether that phrase is 
understood psychologically, to mean the stages by which it 

1 In this section, whatever is said of speech is meant of language in general. 



comes into existence, or metaphysically, to mean the reasons 
why it begins to exist, is a problem I shall not discuss. There 
is one thing, however, which ought here to be said about it. 
Consciousness does not begin as a mere self-consciousness, 
establishing in each one of us the idea of himself, as a person 
or centre of experience, and then proceed by some process, 
whether of ‘projection’ or of argument by analogy, to con- 
struct or infer other persons. Each one of us is a finite being, 
surrounded by others of the same kind; and the conscious- 
ness of our own existence is also the consciousness of the 
existence of these others. Being a form of thought, con- 
sciousness is liable to error (Chapter X, § 7) ; and when first 
a child discovers its own existence it simultaneously discovers 
the existence not only of its mother or nurse but of other 
persons like a cat, a tree, a firelight shadow, a piece of wood, 
where errors in admitting this or that neighbour to the 
category of person are no doubt correlative to errors in its 
conception of its own personality. But, however much the 
discovery (like any other discovery) is at first involved in 
error, the fact remains that the child’s discovery of itself as a 
person is also its discovery of itself as a member of a world 
of persons. 

Self-consciousness makes a person of what, apart from 
that, would be merely a sentient organism. The relations 
between sentient organisms as such are constituted by the 
various modes of sympathy which arise out of psychical 
expression of their feelings. Since persons are organisms, 
they too are connected by relations of this kind. But, as 
persons, they construct a new set of relations between them- 
selves, arising out of their consciousness of themselves and 
one another; these are linguistic relations. The discovery 
of myself as a person is the discovery that I can speak, and 
am thus a persona or speaker; in speaking, I am both speaker 
and hearer; and since the discovery of myself as a person is 
also the discovery of other persons around me, it is the dis- 
covery of speakers and hearers other than myself. Thus, 
from the first, the experience of speech contains in itself in 


principle the experiences of speaking to others and of hearing 
others speak to me. How this principle works out in practice 
depends on how, in detail, I identify persons among my 

The relation between speaker and hearer, as two distinct 
persons, is one which, because of its very familiarity, is 
easily misunderstood. We are apt to think of it as one in 
which the speaker ‘communicates’ his emotions to the hearer. 
But emotions cannot be shared like food or drink, or handed 
over like old clothes. To speak of communicating an emotion, 
if it means anything, must mean causing another person to 
have emotions like those which I have myself. But inde- 
pendently of language neither he nor I nor any third person 
can compare his emotions with mine, so as to find out whether 
they are like or unlike. If we speak of such comparison, we 
speak of something that is done by the use of language; so 
that the comparison must be defined in terms of speaking 
and hearing, not speaking and hearing in terms of such com- 
parison. If, however, the relation between emotion and 
language has been correctly described in § 3, sense can be 
made of these phrases. They will then be analysed as follows. 

When language is said to express emotion, this means that 
there is a single experience which has two elements in it. 
First, there is an emotion of a specific kind, not a psychic 
emotion or impression, but an emotion of which the person 
who has it is conscious, and which by this consciousness he 
has converted from impression into idea. Secondly, there is 
a controlled bodily action in which he expresses this idea. 
The expression is not an afterthought to the idea; the two 
are inseparably united, so that the idea is had as an idea only 
in so far as it is expressed. The expression is speech, and the 
speaker is his own first hearer. As hearing himself speak, he 
is conscious of himself as the possessor of the idea which he 
hears himself expressing. Thus two statements are both true, 
which might easily be thought to contradict each other: 
(1) it is only because we know what we feel that we can 
express it in words; (2) it is only because we express them in 

. i 


words that we know what our emotions are. In the first, we 
describe our situation as speakers; in the second, our situa- 
tion as hearers of what we ourselves say. The two statements 
refer to the same union of idea with expression, but they 
consider this union from opposite ends. 

The person to whom speech is addressed is already 
familiar with this double situation. If he were not, it would 
be useless to address him. He, too, is a speaker, and is 
accustomed to make his emotions known to himself by 
speaking to himself. Each of the two persons concerned is 
conscious of the other’s personality as correlative to his own; 
each is conscious of himself as a person in a world of persons, 
and for the present purpose this world consists of these two. 
The hearer, therefore, conscious that he is being addressed 
by another person like himself (without that original con- 
sciousness the so-called communication of emotion by lan- 
guage could never take place), takes what he hears exactly 
as if it were speech of his own : he speaks to himself with the 
words that he hears addressed to him, and thus constructs 
in himself the idea which those words express. At the same 
time, being conscious of the speaker as a person other than 
himself, he attributes that idea to this other person. Under- 
standing what some one says to you is thus attributing to him 
the idea which his words arouse in yourself; and this implies 
treating them as words of your own. 

This might seem to presuppose community of language 
between the speaker and hearer; for unless they were accus- 
tomed to use the same words, the hearer in using them to 
himself would not mean the same thing by them. But 
community of language is not another situation independent 
of the situation we have been describing, and prior to it: it is 
one name by which we refer to that situation itself. One does 
not first acquire a language and then use it. To possess it 
and to use it are the same. We only come to possess it by 
repeatedly and progressively attempting to use it. 

The reader may object that if what is here maintained 
were true there could never be any absolute assurance, either 


for the hearer or for the speaker, that the one had understood 
the other. That is so ; but in fact there is no such assurance. 
The only assurance we possess is an empirical and relative 
assurance, becoming progressively stronger as conversation 
proceeds, and based on the fact that neither party seems to 
the other to be talking nonsense. The question whether they 
understand each other sohitur interloquendo. If they under- 
stand each other well enough to go on talking, they under- 
stand each other as well as they need; and there is no better 
kind of understanding which they can regret not having 

The possibility of such understanding depends on the 
hearer’s ability to reconstruct in his own consciousness the 
idea expressed by the words he hears. This reconstruction 
is an act of imagination; and it cannot be performed unless 
the hearer’s experience has been such as to equip him for it. 
We have already seen (Chapter X, § 4, end) that, as all ideas 
are derived from impressions, no idea can be formed as such 
in consciousness except by a mind whose sensuous-emotional 
experience contains the corresponding impression, at least 
in a faint and submerged shape, at that very moment. If 
words, however eloquent and well chosen, are addressed to a 
hearer in whose mind there is no impression corresponding to 
the idea they are meant to convey, he will either treat them as 
nonsense, or will attribute to them (possibly with the caution 
that the speaker has not expressed himself very well) a mean- 
ing derived from his own experience and forced upon them 
in spite of an obvious misfit. The same thing will happen if, 
although the hearer has the right impression in his mind, he 
suffers from a corruption of consciousness (Chapter X, § 6) 
which will not allow him to attend to it. 

Misunderstanding is not necessarily the hearer’s fault; it 
may be the speaker’s. This will be the case if through 
corruption in his own consciousness the idea which he 
expresses is a falsified one; certain elements, which are in 
fact essential to the expressed idea, being disowned. Any 
attempt on the hearer’s part to reconstruct the idea for himself 


will (unless his own consciousness happens to be similarly 
corrupted) result in his rediscovering, as an integral part of 
the idea, this disowned element; and thus speaker and hearer 
will be again at cross-purposes. 

§ 6. Language and Thought 

In one sense language is wholly an activity of thought, 
and thought is all it can ever express ; for the level of experi- 
ence to which it belongs is that of awareness or consciousness 
or imagination, and this level has been shown to belong not 
to the realm of sensation or psychical experience, but to the 
realm of thought. But if thought is taken in its narrower 
sense of intellect, language together with imaginative ex- 
perience as such falls outside it and below it. Language 
in its original nature expresses not thought in this narrower 
sense, but only emotions; though these are not crude im- 
pressions, but are transmuted into ideas through the activity 
of consciousness. 

I have already said that there is a secondary stage in its 
development, where language undergoes modification to 
serve the purposes of intellect. It might be supposed that, 
because art is the imaginative expression of emotion (Chap- 
ters VI, VII), this secondary development is of no interest 
to the aesthetician as such. This would be a mistake. Even 
if art never expresses thought as such, but only emotion, 
the emotions it expresses are not only the emotions of a 
merely conscious experient, they include the emotions of a 
thinker; and consequently a theory of art must consider the 
question : how, if at all, must language be modified in order 
to bring the expression of these emotions within its scope? 

The general distinction between imagination and intellect 
is that imagination presents to itself an object which it 
experiences as one and indivisible: whereas intellect goes 
beyond that single object and presents to itself a world of 
many such with relations of determinate kinds between 

Everything which imagination presents to itself is a here, 


a now; something complete in itself, absolutely self-con- 
tained, unconnected with anything else by the relations 
between what it is and what it is not, what it is and that 
because of which it is what it is, what it is and what it might 
have been, what it is and what it ought to be. If any of 
these distinctions are imported into the object of imagination, 
it absorbs them; the duality of terms with a relation between 
them disappears, and leaves only a trace of itself in the shape 
of a modification in the quality of the whole. For example: 
I listen to a thrush singing. By mere sensation I hear at any 
given moment only one note or one fragment of a note. By 
imagination what I have been hearing continues to vibrate 
in my thought as an idea, so that the whole sung phrase is 
present to me as an idea at a single moment. I may now go 
on to a further act, by which I imagine alongside of this 
present May thrush-song the thrush-song of January. So 
far as the entire experience remains at the level of imagina- 
tion, as distinct from that of intellect, these two songs are 
not imagined separately as two things with a relation between 
them. The January song coalesces with the May song, and 
confers upon it a new quality of mature mellowness. Thus 
what I imagine, however complex it may be, is imagined as 
a single whole, where relations between the parts are present 
simply as qualities of the whole. 

If, starting from the same experience of listening to a 
bird-song, I now begin to think about it, in the narrower 
sense of that word, I analyse it into parts. From being an 
indivisible unity it becomes a manifold, a network of things 
with relations between them. Here is one note, and here 
another, higher or lower, softer or louder. Each is different 
from the other, and different in a definite way. I can think 
of these qualities by themselves, and reflect that a note might 
be higher and louder than another, or higher and softer. I 
can describe the difference between two songs by saying that 
one has a sweeter tone than the other, or is longer, or 
contains more notes. This is analytic thought. 

Another thing that I can do is to go beyond what I am 

Wfl S 



imagining and consider its relation to other things which 
I am not imagining. For example, I may be unable at the 
moment to call up to my mind any remembrance (that is, any 
imagination) of what the January thrush-song is like; but 
I can remember facts about it, even if I cannot remember 
itself; I can, for example, remember the fact that I heard it 
four months ago at dawn. Memory in this second sense is a 
kind of intellectual paper-money which I cannot exchange 
for the gold of memory in the first sense; it is the thought of 
something as occupying a certain place in the scheme of 
things (here, in space and time) without the thought of what 
the thing which occupies that place actually and in itself is. 
This thought of something indeterminate, which if it were 
determinate would occupy a certain position, is abstract 

These are not the only kinds of thought (for I shall now 
begin to use that word only in its narrower sense). They are 
given merely as examples of what thought does which 
imagination, never analytic and never abstract, cannot do. 
Language has to be adapted to the expression of these new 
kinds of experience. For this purpose it has itself to undergo 
parallel changes. 

§ 7. The Grammatical Analysis of Language 

First, language is analysed, by the work of the intellect 
j itself, grammatically. In this process there are three stages. 

(1) Language is an activity; it is expressing oneself, or 
speaking. But this activity is not what the grammarian 
analyses. He analyses a product of this activity, ‘speech’ or 
‘discourse’ not in the sense of a speaking or a discoursing, but 
in the sense of something brought into existence by that 
activity. This product of the activity of speaking is nothing 
real; it is a metaphysical fiction. It is believed to exist only 
because the theory of language is approached from the stand- 
point of the philosophy of craft, and the assumption un- 
questioningly made that any activity is essentially a kind of 
fabricating. That being so, the activity of expression will be 


essentially the fabricating of a thing called language, and 
the endeavour to understand that activity will take the form 
of an endeavour to understand its product. This may seem 
a futile undertaking. What possible result, good or bad, can 
come of trying to understand a thing which does not exist ? 
The answer (which is already clear to an attentive reader of 
Chapter VI, § 1) is that these metaphysical fictions are in 
one sense real enough. The person who tries to understand 
them is fixing his attention on a real thing, but is distorting 
his ideas about it by attempting to harmonize them with 
a preconception which is in fact false. Thus, what the 
grammarian is really doing is to think, not about a product 
of the activity of speaking, but about that activity itself, 
distorted in his thoughts about it by the assumption that 
it is not an activity, but a product or ‘thing ’. 1 

(2) Next, this ‘thing’ must be scientifically studied; and 
this involves a double process. The first stage of this process 
is to cut the ‘thing’ up into parts. Some readers will object 
to this phrase on the ground that I have used a verb of 
acting when I ought to have used a verb of thinking; a 
dangerous habit, they will remind me, because when you 
get to the point of saying ‘thought constructs the world’ when 
you mean ‘some one thinks how the world is constructed’, 
you have slipped into idealism through mere looseness of 
language; and that, they will add, is the way idealists are 
made. There is much that might be said in answer to this 
objection; as, that philosophical controversies are not to be 
settled by a kind of police-regulation governing people’s 
choice of words, and that a school of thought (to dignify it 
by that name) which depends for its existence on enforcing 
a particular jargon is a school which I neither respect nor 
fear. But I prefer to reply merely that I said cut because I 
meant cut. The division of the ‘thing’ known as language 
into words is a division not discovered, but devised, in the 
process of analysing it. 

1 I use quotation marks in order to show that the word is being used not 
in its actual English sense, but as a technical term in metaphysics. 


(3) The final process is to devise a scheme of relations 
between the parts thus divided. Here again we must refuse 
to be frightened by the bogy of idealism. The relations are 
not discovered, they are, we must insist, devised. If the 
terms are devised, the relations between them are devised too; 
the more so because the processes here numbered (2) and 
(3) are not separate, but concurrent, since any modification 
in either of them entails modifications in the other. The 
scheme of relations falls under certain customary heads. 

(a) Lexicography. Every word, as it actually occurs in 
discourse, occurs once and once only. But if the dissection 
is skilfully carried out, there will be words here and there 
which are so like one another that they can be treated as 
recurrences of the same word. Thus we get a new fiction : 
the recurring word, the entity which forms the lexico- 
grapher’s unit. That this is a fiction is, I think, not difficult 
to grasp. In the sentence I have just written, the word ‘is’ 
occurs twice. But the relation between these two is not one 
of identity. Both phonetically and logically the two are alike, 
but not more than alike. 

The lexicographer has a second task, namely, to settle the 
‘meanings’ of these fictitious entities. He does this, of course, 
by using words; so that this part of his work is carried out 
by establishing relations of synonymity. These relations are 
as fictitious as the terms which they relate; and the con- 
scientious lexicographer soon becomes aware of this. Even 
granted the division of language into words and the primary 
classification of these into lexicographical units, no one of 
these units is ever quite synonymous with any other. 

(h) Accidence. When lexicography has established the 
units dotninus, domine> dominum, these are regarded not as 
separate words, but as modifications of a single word taking 
place according to definite rules. These rules, again, are 
palpable fictions; for it is notorious that exceptions to them 
occur; and consequently they can be assimilated to scientific 
laws only if a theory of science be accepted according to 
which its laws hold good not universally, but only (in 


Aristotle’s phrase) 'for the most part*. This, in fact, was the 
theory which presided over the birth of grammar*, and al- 
though it is not now accepted by anybody, it still tacitly 
underlies whatever claim grammar may possess to the name 
of a science. 

(c) Syntax . Words as actually ‘used’ are parts of larger 
units called sentences. The grammatical modification which 
each word undergoes in a given sentence is a function of its 
relation to others either expressly present or implied in the 
sentence. The rules determining these functions are called 
rules of syntax. 

The grammatical manipulation of language is so familiar 
to ourselves, who have learnt it from the Greeks as an 
essential part of those transmitted and developing customs 
which make up our civilization, that we take it for granted 
and forget to inquire into its motives. We vaguely suppose 
it to be a science; we think that the grammarian, when he 
takes a discourse and divides it into parts, is finding out the 
truth about it, and that when he lays down rules for the 
relations between these parts he is telling us how people’s 
minds work when they speak. This is very far from being 
the truth. A grammarian is not a kind of scientist studying 
the actual structure of language; he is a kind of butcher, 
converting it from organic tissue into marketable and edible 
joints. Language as it lives and grows no more consists of 
verbs, nouns, and so forth than animals as they live and grow 
consist of forehands, gammons, rump-steaks, and other joints. 
The grammarian’s real function (I do not call it purpose, 
because he does not propose it to himself as a conscious aim) 
is not to understand language, but to alter it: to convert it 
from a state (its original and native state) in which it expresses 
emotion into a secondary state in which it can express thought. 

This function is actually fulfilled; but only in a limited 
and qualified way. Language would not remain language 
unless it remained expressive; and it can do this only by 
resisting the grammarian’s efforts so far as to retain a measure 
of its original vitality. The division of speech into words is 


precarious and arbitrary; in actual speech these divided 
portions coagulate again into phrases which will not come 
apart, and which the grammarian is obliged to treat in 
defiance of his own principles as if they were single words. 
Such a coagulation of several words into a single whole, quite 
different from the sum of the words that compose it in their 
recognized grammatical relations to each other, is called an 
‘idiom’. The word is a curious one. It means something 
personal and private, something which reveals a rebellion 
on the part of its user against the public usage of his society. 
An idiom, therefore, ought to be a mode of speech unin- 
telligible to any one except the speaker. But, in fact, idioms 
are perfectly intelligible; and all the grammarian has done 
by calling them idioms is to admit that his own grammatical 
science cannot cope with them, and that the people who use 
them have spoken intelligibly when, according to him, what 
they say should be meaningless. Again, the lexicographer’s 
credit depends on his power of making good the assumption 
that a word, as he defines it, is a genuine linguistic unity, 
maintaining its identity both of sound and of meaning 
through all changes of context. But he is continually being 
forced to admit that this assumption is false. In proportion as 
language is more thoroughly intellectualized, the occasions 
on which it breaks down become rarer; but even the most 
completely intellectualized language will suddenly remember 
the pit whence it was digged, and laugh at lexicographers by 
shifting the meanings of its words according to the context 
in which they stand. In the ordinary speech of everyday life, 
where intellectualization is relatively low, the lexicographer 
can never be victorious in his running fight with the vagaries 
of context. 

Considerations like these are fatal to the prejudice which 
would regard the grammarian’s work as scientific. It does 
not follow that grammar is of no use. It is of great use; but 
its use is not theoretical, it is practical. The grammarian’s 
business is to adapt language to the function of expressing 
thought ; and the reason why we tolerate these inconsistencies 


and compromises in his work is that we realize the impor- 
tance of his not overdoing it so far as to destroy the ability 
of language to express anything at all. 

I likened the grammarian to a butcher; but, if so, he is a 
butcher of a curious kind. Travellers say that certain African 
peoples will cut a steak from a living animal, and cook it 
for dinner, the animal being not much the worse. This 
may serve to amend the original comparison. 

§ 8. The Logical Analysis of Language 

All this, however, is only one side of a process whose other 
side is known as ‘the traditional logic’. This consists in a 
certain technique first systematically expounded, so far as its 
earliest expositions are preserved, in Aristotle’s Organon ; 
perpetuated and developed by a long line of medieval 
logicians; rejected as a futile logomachy by the anti- 
Aristotelian movement of the Renaissance and the seven- 
teenth century; reaffirmed, with many qualifications due 
partly to the influence of that movement and partly to a 
renewed study of Aristotle himself, by the so-called idealists 
of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries from Kant to 
Bradley and beyond; and restored with fewer qualifications 
by the logical analysts and positivists of the present day. 

The aim of this technique is to make language into a 
perfect vehicle for the expression of thought. We may 
explain its nature and purpose by means of a preamble 
followed by a resolution : ‘Whereas the aim of persons who 
use language in good faith is thereby to express their 
thoughts; and whereas this aim is now frustrated by the 
inaccuracies and ambiguities besetting the ordinary use of 
language; Now therefore let it be resolved that all such 
persons do in future express their thoughts by the use of 
certain linguistic forms, to be known as “logical forms”.’ 
The constitutive peculiarities of these so-called logical forms 
may, of course, be differently defined by different schools 
of thought. For the earlier or Aristotelian school, logical 
form meant subject-predicate form, and the logical expression 


of thought meant the expression of it in the form S is P. 
For the modern or analytic school this is both inadequate and 
misleading, and the main problem of logical expression is 
the analysis of a given statement into all the propositions (not 
necessarily subject-predicate propositions) which the person 
making it is thereby affirming. I am not here concerned 
with this or any of the other differences that divide the 
technique of analytic logic from that of its Aristotelian 
ancestor; only with their fundamental identity of purpose; 
and with that only so far as it affects the theory of language. 

Any logical technique, whether Aristotelian or analytic or 
any other, begins by assuming that the grammatical trans- 
formation of language has been successfully accomplished. 
The activity of speech has been converted into a ‘thing’; 
this ‘thing’ has been cut up into words; these words have 
been sorted out according to resemblances into groups, the 
words in each group being treated as repetitions of a single 
lexicographical unit; these units have been tied down each 
to its proper and constant meaning; and, so forth. The 
logician’s work begins with the laying down of three further 

First comes what I shall call the propositional assumption. 
This is the assumption that, among the various ‘sentences’ 
already distinguished by grammarians, there are some which, 
instead of expressing emotions, make statements. It is to 
these that the logician confines his attention. 

Second, the principle of homolingual translation. This is 
an assumption about sentences corresponding to the lexico- 
grapher’s assumption about words (or, to be precise, about 
what I have called lexicographical units) when he ‘defines 
the meaning’ of a given word by equating it with that of 
another, or of a group of words taken together. According 
to the principle of homolingual translation, one sentence 
may have precisely the same meaning as another single 
sentence, or group of sentences taken together, in the same 
language, so that one may be substituted for the other 
without change of meaning. 


The third assumption is that of logical preferability: 
namely that, of two sentences or sentence-groups having the 
same meaning, one may be preferable, from a logician’s point 
of view, to the other. What determines this preferability 
depends upon what the logician is trying to do : that is, upon 
the aims and principles of his technique. In spite of what 
logicians have sometimes said, the preferred sentence or 
sentence-group is never preferred as being easier to under- 
stand. That criterion is used not by the logician, but by the 
stylist. The preferred version is preferred because it is one 
which the rules of the logician’s technique enable him to 

The Aristotelian logic is mainly concerned with inference. 
Its manipulation of propositions is directed to the end of 
fitting them into the framework of the syllogism. The 
Aristotelian logician is manoeuvring for a position in which 
he can say: ‘You are wrong to maintain this view, for you 
defend it on such and such grounds, and when you reduce 
your premisses to logical form you can see for yourself that 
they do not prove the alleged conclusion.’ The modern 
analytic logician is interested not in the formal validity of 
inferences, but in the ‘content’ of the statements he analyses. 
He, too, is interested in polemics; but his method is based 
on the conception of error as due not to syllogistic fallacies, 
but to confusa cognitio . He therefore manoeuvres for a 
position in which he can say: ‘You are wrong to maintain this 
view; for in asserting it you are simultaneously asserting 
five different propositions, a, b, c, d, and e\ now you will 
agree, when you look at them separately for yourself, that 
a, b, c, and d are true, but that e is false.’ The logical tech- 
nique of these two schools consists of a method for achieving 
their respective tactical positions; and the preferability of one 
homolingual translation over another is relative to the rules 
of the technique adopted. 

It is even more obvious here than in the case of gram- 
matical analysis that we are concerned with a modification 
of language, not a theory of it. As Jowett is said to have 


remarked, the traditional logic is ‘neither a science nor an 
art, but a dodge’. It is a dodge for converting language into 
symbolism. Its assumptions are neither certainly nor prob- 
ably, nor even possibly, true. They are, in fact, not assump- 
tions, but proposals; and what they propose is the conversion 
of language into something which, if it could be realized, 
would not be language at all. This is partly understood by 
the analytic logicians, who in practice adopt a symbolism 
like that of mathematics to facilitate their logical mani- 
pulations, and in theory assert a convergence, if not an 
identity, between logic and mathematics. 

Like the grammarian’s modification of language, the 
logician’s modification of it can be to a certain extent carried 
out. But it can never be carried out in its entirety. When 
the attempt is made to do this, what happens is that language 
is subjected to a strain tending to pull it apart into two quite 
different things, language proper and symbolism. If the 
division could be completed, the result would be the state of 
things which Dr. Richards is presumably trying to describe 
when he distinguishes 1 ‘the two uses of language’. He states 
the distinction thus (op. cit., p. 267): ‘A statement may be 
used for the sake of the reference , true or false, which it 
causes. This is the scientific use of language. But it may also 
be used for the sake of the effects in emotion and attitude 
produced by the reference it occasions. This is the emotive 
use of language.’ Dr. Richards assumes, apparently without 
realizing that anyone could do otherwise, that language is not 
an activity, but something which is ‘used’, and can be ‘used’ 
in quite different ways while remaining the same ‘thing’, 
like a chisel that is used either for cutting wood or for lifting 
tacks. With this technical theory of language he combines a 
technical theory of art. The ‘emotive use of language’ he 
regards as its artistic use. To continue the above quotation 
after omitting two sentences: ‘Many arrangements of words 
evoke attitudes without any reference being required en 
route. They operate like musical phrases.’ This makes clear 
1 The Principles of Literary Criticism, ed. a (1926), ch. xxxiv. 


the connexion between his technical theory of language and 
his technical theory of art. It comes to this, that according 
to Dr. Richards there is a complete division between the 
‘scientific use of language’, i.e. its use for the making of state- 
ments, true or false, and a purely aesthetic quasi-musical 
‘use’ which is the extreme case of what he calls the ‘emotive 
use’, i.e. its use to evoke emotion. The technical theory 
of language is as complete an error as the technical theory 
of art, if indeed they are two errors and not one; but what 
Dr. Richards is here saying can be restated, eliminating these 
errors, by saying that discourse is either scientific discourse 
in which statements, true or false, are made, and thought is 
expressed; or artistic discourse in which emotion is expressed. 

Is this distinction a real one, or is it only a statement of the 
two forces between which a tension, but a not altogether 
disruptive tension, is introduced into language by the at- 
tempt to intellectualize it ? I shall try to show that the latter 
alternative is the truth; that language intellectualized by the 
work of grammar and logic is never more than partially intel- 
lectualized, and that it retains its function as language only in 
so far as the intellectualization is incomplete. Language may 
by the work of the grammarian and logician become ‘ballasted 
with logic’, as Bergson says that space is ‘ballasted with 
geometry’ ; but if it were filled up solid with ballast it would 
no longer be seaworthy; it would simply founder. To drop 
the metaphor, scientific discourse in so far as it is scientific 
tries to rid itself of its own function as discourse or language, 
emotional expressiveness; but if it succeeded in this attempt 
it would no longer be discourse. From the point of view of 
language, therefore, the distinction Dr. Richards has drawn 
(if my reinterpretation of it is correct, of which I am not sure ; 
for it is by no means, as he says, ‘simple’ when ‘once clearly 
grasped’) is not a distinction separating scientific discourse 
from artistic; it is a distinction within artistic discourse, 
between artistic discourse as such and artistic discourse sub- 
serving the purposes of intellect. How exactly it subserves 
these purposes we must ask later on. 


In the first place, it is a matter of fact that discourse in 
which a determined attempt is made to state truths retains 
an element of emotional expressiveness. No serious writer 
or speaker ever utters a thought unless he thinks it worth 
uttering. What makes it worth uttering is not its truth (the 
fact that something is true is never a sufficient reason for 
saying it), but the fact of its being the one truth which is 
important in the present situation. Nor does he ever utter it 
except with a choice of words, and in a tone of voice, that 
express his sense of this importance. If he is soliloquizing, 
his words and his tone convey not only ‘this is important’, 
but ‘this is important to me’. If he is addressing an audience, 
words and tone convey not only ‘this is important’, but ‘this is 
important for you’. In proportion as a writer is skilful in get- 
ting his audience to grasp his meaning, attention to his choice 
of words and tone of voice will reveal a subtly appropriate 
texture of emotional expression. The writer is sometimes 
easily confident, sometimes nervous, sometimes pleading, 
sometimes amused, sometimes indignant. When Dr. Richards 
wants to say that a certain view of Tolstoy’s about art is 
mistaken, he says: ‘This is plainly untrue.’ Scientific use 
of language, certainly. But how delicately emotive 1 One 
hears the lecturing voice, and sees the shape of the lecturer’s 
fastidious Cambridge mouth as he speaks the words. One is 
reminded of a cat, shaking from its paw a drop of the water 
into which it has been unfortunately obliged to step. Tol- 
stoy’s theory does not smell quite nice. A person of refine- 
ment will not remain in its company longer than he can help. 
Hence the abruptness: those four brief words say to the 
audience : ‘Do not think I am going to disgust you by dragging 
to light all the follies into which unreflective haste led this 
great man. Take courage; I dislike this chapter as much as 
you do; but it is going to be very short.’ 

The only obstacle to recognizing this truth is one which, 
naturally inherent in the practice of writing down our words 
instead of speaking them, has been artificially exaggerated by 
an unholy alliance between bad logic and bad literature. 


When some one utters scientific discourse, saying, for ex- 
ample: ‘The chemical formula of water is H 2 0,’ the tone and 
tempo of his voice make his emotional attitude towards the 
thought he is expressing clear to any attentive listener. He 
may be bored with it, and concerned only to get through the 
routine of a chemistry lesson ; then he will say the words in 
a flat, dull tone. He may wish to impress the class with 
something they must remember for the sake of their examina- 
tions; then he will use a forced and hectoring tone. Or he 
may be excited by it, as a triumph of scientific thought which 
for him has never lost its freshness; then he will use an alert 
and lively tone, and fifty years afterwards an F.R.S. will say 
to a friend: ‘It was old Jones, you know, who really taught 
me chemistry.’ But in our writing and printing there is no 
notation for these differences, and consequently the reader of 
a sentence like ‘The chemical formula of water is H 2 0’ has 
no clue to them. In his capacity as a logician, he now stands 
on the brink of a precipice. He is tempted to believe that the 
scientific discourse is the, written or printed words, and that 
the spoken words are either simply this over again, or this 
■plus something else, namely emotional expression. Good 
logic or good literature would save him; good logic, by 
calling his attention to the fact that even the logical structure 
of a proposition is not always clear from its written or printed 
form 1 ; good literature, because one great part of a writer’s 
skill consists in so framing his sentences that an ordinarily 
intelligent reader cannot make nonsense of them by reading 
them, aloud or to himself, with the wrong intonation or 
tempo. Failing these helps, and misled by the modern 
practice of silent reading, logicians fling themselves head- 
long in hordes, like lemmings; and suicidally discuss the 
import of ‘propositions’ such as ‘the king of Utopia died 
last Sunday’, without stopping to ask: ‘In what tone of voice 

1 Cook Wilson used to point out in his lectures that the written sentence 
‘That building is the Bodleian’ indifferently represents two quite different 
propositions, 'That building is the Bodleian’ (answering the question, ‘Which 
of these is the Bodleian ?’) and ‘That building is the Bodleian' (answering the 
question ‘What is that building ?’). Cf. Statement and Inference , pp. 1 17-1 8. 


am I supposed to say this ? The tone of a person beginning 
a fairy tale, in which case I hand the job over to an aestheti- 
cian ; or the tone of a person stating a fact of which he wishes 
to convince his audience, in which case it is a job for an 
alienist; or the tone of a person merely making noises with 
his mouth which may interest a physiologist but do not 
interest me; or the tone of a person trying to pull a logician’s 
leg, in which case solvuntur risu tabulae ?’ If you don’t know 
what tone to say them in, you can’t say them at all : they are 
not words, not even noises. 

‘The proposition’, understood as a form of words ex- 
pressing thought and not emotion, and as constituting the 
unit of scientific discourse, is a fictitious entity. This will be 
easily granted by any one who thinks for a moment about 
scientific discourse in its actual and living reality, instead of 
thinking only about the conventional marks on paper which 
represent or misrepresent it. But I now come to a second 
and more difficult thesis. 

I have been speaking hitherto as if discourse had two 
functions, one to express thought, the other to express 
emotion; and as if the misconception I want to remove were 
the doctrine that scientific discourse or intellectualized 
language has the first function without the second. I do 
want to remove that misconception; but I want to go a good 
deal farther. An emotion is always the emotional charge upon 
some activity. For every different kind of activity there is 
a different kind of emotion. For every different kind of 
emotion there is a different kind of expression. Taking first 
the broad distinction between sensation and thought, the 
emotional charges upon sense-experience, felt as they are at 
a purely psychical level, are psychically expressed by auto- 
matic reactions. The emotional charges upon thought- 
experiences are expressed by the controlled activity of 
language. Taking next the distinction within thought of 
consciousness and intellect, the emotions of consciousness 
are expressed by language in its primitive and original form; 
but intellect has its emotions too, and these must have an 


appropriate expression, which must be language in its 
intellectualized form. 

Intellect has its own emotions. The excitement which 
drove Archimedes from his bath naked through the streets 
was not a mere generalized excitement, it was specifically 
the excitement of a man who had just solved a scientific 
problem. But it was even more definite than that. It was the 
excitement of the man who had just solved the problem of 
specific gravity. The cry of ‘Eureka’ which expressed that 
emotion looks, when written down, exactly like the ‘Eureka’ 
of a man who has found his oil-flask; but to an attentive 
listener it was assuredly very different. It announced not 
just any discovery, but a scientific discovery. And if there 
had been among the passers-by a physicist as great as 
Archimedes himself, who had come to Syracuse in order to 
tell Archimedes that he had discovered specific gravity, it is 
not impossible that he might have understood the whole 
thing, and burst from the crowd, shouting, ‘So have I !’ 

An extreme and fantastic case may serve to point the 
principle. If it is once granted that intellectualized language 
does express emotion, and that this emotion is not a vague 
or generalized emotion, but the perfectly definite emotion 
proper to a perfectly definite act of thought, the consequence 
follows that in expressing the emotion the act of thought is 
expressed too. There is no' need for two separate expressions, 
one of the thought and the other of the emotion accom- 
panying it. There is only one expression. We may say if we 
like that a thought is expressed in words and that these same 
words also express the peculiar emotions proper to it; but 
these two things are not expressed in the same sense of 
that word. The expression of a thought in words is never 
a direct or immediate expression. It is mediated through 
the peculiar emotion which is the emotional charge on the 
thought. Thus, when one person expounds his thought in 
words to another, what he is directly and immediately doing 
is to express to his hearer the peculiar emotion with which 
he thinks it, and persuade him to think out this emotion for 


himself, that is, to rediscover for himself a thought which, 
when he has discovered it, he recognizes as the thought 
whose peculiar emotional tone the speaker has expressed. 

§ 9. Language and Symbolism 

We can now return to the distinction between language 
and symbolism. A symbol is language and yet not language. 
A mathematical or logical or any other kind of symbol is 
invented to serve a purpose purely scientific; it is supposed 
to have no emotional expressiveness whatever. But when 
once a particular symbolism has been taken into use and 
mastered, it reacquires the emotional expressiveness of 
language proper. Every mathematician knows this. At the 
same time, the emotions which mathematicians find ex- 
pressed in their symbols are not emotions in general, they are 
the peculiar emotions belonging to mathematical thinking. 

The same applies to technical terms. These are invented 
solely to serve the purpose of a particular scientific theory; 
but as they begin to pass current in the scientist’s speech or 
writing they express to him and to those who understand 
him the peculiar emotions which that theory yields. Often, 
when invented by a man of literary ability, they are chosen 
from the first with an eye to expressing these emotions as 
directly and obviously as possible. Thus, a logician may use 
a term like ‘atomic propositions’ as part of his technical 
vocabulary. The word ‘atomic’ is a technical term, that is, 
a word borrowed from elsewhere and turned into a symbol 
by undergoing precise definition in terms of the theory. 
Sentences in which it occurs can be subjected to homo- 
lingual translation. But, as we find it occurring in the 
logician’s discourse, it is full of emotional expressiveness. 
It conveys to the reader, and is meant to convey, a 
warning and a threat, a hope and a promise. ‘Do not try 
to analyse these; renounce the dream of analysing to 
infinity; that way delusion lies, and the ridicule of people 
like myself. Walk boldly, trusting in the solida simplicitas of 
these propositions; if you use them confidently as bricks out 


of which to build your logical constructions, they will never 
betray you.’ 

Symbolism is thus intellectualized language: language, be- 
cause it expresses emotions; intellectualized, because adapted 
to the expression of intellectual emotions. Language in its 
original imaginative form may be said to have expressiveness, 
but no meaning. About such language we cannot distin- 
guish between what the speaker says and what he means. 
You may say that he means precisely what he says; or you 
may say that he means nothing, he is only speaking (where 
speaking, of course, means not making vocal noises, but 
expressing emotion). Language in its intellectualized form 
has both expressiveness and meaning. As language, it 
expresses a certain emotion. As symbolism, it refers beyond 
that emotion to the thought whose emotional charge it is. 
This is the familiar distinction between ‘what we say' and 
‘what we mean’. ‘What we say’ is what we immediately 
express: the eager or reluctant or triumphant or regretful 
utterance in which these emotions and the gestures or sounds 
that express them are inseparable parts of a single experience. 
‘What we mean’ is the intellectual activity upon which these 
are the emotional charge, and towards which the words 
expressing the emotions are a kind of finger-post, pointing 
for ourselves in the direction from which we have come, and 
for another in the direction to which he must go if he wishes 
to ‘understand what we say’, that is, to reconstruct for him- 
self and in himself the intellectual experience which has led 
us to say what we did. 

The progressive intellectualization of language, its pro- 
gressive conversion by the work of grammar and logic into 
a scientific symbolism, thus represents not a progressive 
drying-up of emotion, but its progressive articulation and 
specialization. We are not getting away from an emotional 
atmosphere into a dry, rational atmosphere; we are acquiring 
new emotions and new means of expressing them. 






§ i . Skeleton of a Theory 

The empirical or descriptive work of Book I left us with the 
conclusion that art proper, as distinct from amusement or 
magic, was (i) expressive, (ii) imaginative. Both these terms, 
however, awaited definition: we might know how to apply 
them (that being a question of usage, or ability to speak not 
so much English as the common tongue of European 
peoples), but we did not know to what theory concerning the 
thing so designated this application might commit us. It was 
to fill this gap in our knowledge that we went on to the 
analytical work of Book II. The result of that book is that 
we now have a theory of art. We can answer the question: 
‘What kind of a thing must art be, if it is to have the two 
characteristics of being expressive and imaginative?’ The 
answer is: ‘Art must be language.’ 

The activity which generates an artistic experience is the 
activity of consciousness. This rules out all theories of art 
which place its origin in sensation or its emotions, i.e. in 
man’s psychical nature: its origin lies not there but in his 
nature as a thinking being. At the same time, it rules out all 
theories which place its origin in the intellect, and make it 
something to do with concepts. Each of these theories, 
however, may be valued as a protest against the other; for as 
consciousness is a level of experience intermediate between 
the psychic and the intellectual, art may be referred to either 
of these levels as a way of saying that it is not referable to the 

The artistic experience is not generated out of nothing. 
It presupposes a psychical, or sensuous-emotional, experi- 
ence. By an illegitimate comparison with craft, this psychical 
experience is often called its ‘matter’; and it is actually- 
transformed, somewhat (but not exactly) as a raw material is 


transformed, by the act which generates the artistic experi- 
ence. It is transformed from sense into imagination, or from 
impression into idea. 

At the level of imaginative experience, the crude emotion of 
the psychical level is translated into idealized emotion, or the 
so-called aesthetic emotion, which is thus not an emotion pre- 
existing to the expression of it, but the emotional charge on 
the experience of expressing a given emotion, felt as a new 
colouring which that emotion receives in being expressed* 
Similarly, the psycho-physical activity on which the given 
emotion was a charge is converted into a controlled activity of 
the organism, dominated by the consciousness which controls 
it, and this activity is language or art. It is an imaginative 
experience as distinct from a merely psycho-physical one, not 
in the sense that it involves nothing psycho-physical, for it 
always and necessarily does involve such elements, but in the 
sense that none of these elements survive in their crude state; 
they are all converted into ideas and incorporated into an 
experience which as a whole, as generated and presided over 
by consciousness, is an imaginative experience. 

This imaginative activity, as the activity of speech, stands in 
a twofold relation to emotion. In one way it expresses an emo- 
tion which the agent, by thus expressing it, discovers himself 
to have been feeling independently of expressing it. This is the 
purely psychical emotion which existed in him before he 
expressed it by means of language, though of course it had 
already its appropriate psychical expression by means of invol- 
untary changes in his organism. In another way it expresses an 
emotion which the agent only feels at all in so far as he thus 
expresses it. This is an emotion of consciousness, the emotion 
belonging to the act of expression. But these are not two quite 
independent emotions. The second is not a purely general 
emotion attendant on a purely general activity of expression, 
it is a quite individual emotion attendant on the individual 
act of expressing this psychic emotion and no other. It is thus 
the psychic emotion itself, converted by the act of conscious- 
ness into a corresponding imaginative or aesthetic emotion. 


This no doubt sounds very dry and abstruse to a reader 
who has not read, or has forgotten, the contents of the pre- 
ceding chapters. To a reader who remembers the argument 
of those chapters, it will be quite clear. Even so, it is, of 
course, highly abstract. I will remedy that by proceeding 
to apply it to certain particular problems. 

§ 2. Art Proper and Art falsely so called 

The aesthetic experience, or artistic activity, is the ex- 
perience of expressing one's emotions; and that which 
expresses them is the total imaginative activity called in- 
differently language or art. This is art proper. Now, in so 
far as the activity of expression creates a deposit of habits in 
the agent, and of by-products in his world, these habits and 
by-products become things utilizable by himself and others 
for ulterior ends. When we speak of ‘using’ language for 
certain purposes, what is so used cannot be language itself, 
for language is not a utilizable thing but a pure activity. It 
is something which in Chapter III, § 2, I described as art 
(that is, language) ‘denatured’. Language in itself cannot 
be thus denatured; what can be is the deposits, internal and 
external, left by the linguistic activity: the habit of uttering 
certain words and phrases; the habit of making certain kinds 
of gesture, together with the kinds of audible noise, coloured 
canvass, and so forth, which these gestures produce. 

The artistic activity which creates these habits and con- 
structs these external records of itself, supersedes and jetti- 
sons them as soon as they are formed. We commonly express 
this by saying that art does not tolerate cliches. Every 
genuine expression must be an original one. However much 
it resembles others, this resemblance is due not to the fact 
that the others exist, but to the fact that the emotion now 
being expressed resembles emotions that have been expressed 
before. The artistic activity does not ‘use’ a ‘ready-made 
language', it ‘creates’ language as it goes along. Once we 
have got rid of a false conception of ‘originality’, no objection 
to this statement arises from the fact that one linguistic 


expression is often very like another. There is nothing in 
creation which favours dissimilarity between creatures as 
against similarity. But the by-products of this creative 
activity, ready-made words and phrases, types of pictorial 
and sculptural form, turns of musical idiom, and so forth, 
can be ‘used’ as means to ends; and among these ends there 
cannot be counted the expressing of emotion, because ex- 
pression (unless art is after all a craft) cannot ever be an end 
to which there are means. 

Thus the dead body, so to speak, of the aesthetic activity 
becomes a repertory of materials out of which an activity of 
a different kind can find means adaptable to its own ends. 
This non-aesthetic activity, in so far as it uses means which 
were once the living body of art, galvanizing these into an 
appearance of life which makes it seem as if their spirit had 
after all not left them, is a pseudo-aesthetic activity. It is 
not art, but it simulates art, and is thus art falsely so called. 

In itself it is not art, but (because it uses means to a pre- 
conceived end) craft. All craft, as we saw in Chapter II, § a, 
is aimed ultimately at producing certain states of mind in 
certain persons. Art falsely so called is, therefore, the 
utilization of ‘language’ (not the living language which alone 
is really language, but the ready-made ‘language’ which 
consists of a repertory of clichis) to produce states of mind in 
the persons upon whom these cliches are used. 

These states of mind (since the activity we are considering 
is an entirely reasonable one) are of course produced for a 
sufficient reason. And they are produced with the consent 
of the person who is being acted upon, so that in the last 
resort it is he that is the judge of this reason. To whatever 
kind of state of mind they belong, it must be (a) one capable 
of being thus produced, (b) produced either as an end in 
itself or as means to some further end. 

(a) There is no way by which any one person can produce 
in another either an act of will or an act of thinking. When 
we say that one person ‘makes’ another think or act, we mean 
at most that he holds out inducements to act in such a way; 


but that will not do here. What one person can produce in 
another is emotion. 

( b ) If the emotion produced is one which the person in 
whom it is produced welcomes for its own sake, that is, as 
pleasant, the producing of it is amusement. If he welcomes 
it as a means to some further end, that is, as useful, the 
producing of it is magic. 

These things are not bad art. They are merely something 
else which may be and often is mistaken for it. The bipola- 
rity in virtue of which an act of thought may be well done or 
ill done (Chapter VIII, § 1) is a differentiation within that 
activity itself, a dialectical relation or opposition belonging 
to its own essential structure; it cannot be reduced to a 
distinction between the activity in question and some other 
activity. If one activity A is mistaken for another, B, the 
making of the mistake testifies to a bipolarity in the act of 
thought which thus mistakes it, but not to a bipolarity in B. 
So a person who mistakes amusement for art is doing his 
thinking badly, but that about which he makes the mistake 
is not bad art. What he is doing is to mistake the cliches or 
corpses of language used in this business for language itself. 
The difference between the things thus confused is like the 
difference between a living man and a dead man ; the differ- 
ence between good art and bad art is like the relation between 
two living men, one good and the other bad. 

Nor are these things a kind of raw material out of which 
art is made by infusing into them the spirit of the aesthetic 
consciousness. I have said repeatedly that such an infusion 
is always possible; but if we consider more closely what that 
statement means, we shall see it to mean not that amusement 
or magic is a precondition of art, but that a person engaged 
in such occupations may, in addition to being engaged in 
them, turn to the very different work of expressing the 
emotions which an occupation of this kind gives him. If, 
for example, a portrait-painter who has been asked to produce 
a good likeness of a sitter, instead, or in addition, paints a 
portrait expressing the emotions which the sitter arouses in 


him, he will produce not a commercial portrait or pot-boiler, 
but a work of art. As a pot-boiler, the picture cannot ever 
become a work of art. It can only become a work of art by 
ceasing to be a pot-boiler. 

The point is important, because I have ventured to assert 
that most of what generally goes by the name of art nowadays 
is not art at all, but amusement. Now, a reader might very 
well say: ‘This amusement art is surely, after all, only art at 
a low level ; or at any rate, something containing in itself the 
living germs of art. If we want to know, therefore, how to 
escape from the situation described (for I admit the correct- 
ness of the description) into one in which genuine art is being 
produced, or produced more frequently and of higher quality, 
the answer is that we must go ahead with our amusement trade 
and insist on doing it better. Or, if amusement art does not 
promise such development, let us concentrate on magical 
art. Let us by all means cease to be merely amusing; let us 
have instead an art designed to stimulate emotions valuable 
for practical life; for instance, an art dedicated to the service 
of communism. At the same time, let us insist on doing our 
communistic art really well, and out of that endeavour we 
shall find ourselves developing a new art properly so called.’ 

Such a reader would be simply cherishing illusions. He 
would be in effect confusing the relation between art and not 
art with the relation between good art and bad art. I say this 
with no hostility whatever towards magical art in general, or 
in particular towards an art inspired by the wish to inculcate 
communistic sentiments. On the contrary, I have insisted 
that magic is a thing which every community must have; 
and in a civilization that is rotten with amusement, the more 
magic we produce the better. If we were talking about the 
moral regeneration of our world, I should urge the deliberate 
creation of a system of magic, using as its vehicles such 
things as the theatre and the profession of letters, as one 
indispensable kind of means to that end. But that is not the 
point in question. We are talking not about the necessity for 
magic, but about whether magic, by some dialectic inherent 



in itself, will develop, if heartily pursued, into art. The 
answer is that it will not. 

A certain confusion of mind on this subject is very com- 
mon at the present time among persons who are anxious to 
help in creating both a better art and a better political 
system. In connexion with their desire for a better art, they 
have rejected the notion, current in the late nineteenth and 
early twentieth centuries, that what makes a work of art is 
not its subject-matter, but its technical qualities, with the 
corollary that a genuine artist should be quite indifferent 
to his subject-matter, and should care about it only to the 
extent of choosing one which will give him scope for a dis- 
play of his artistic powers. As against this view', they hold 
that no artist can produce a fine work of art whose subject- 
matter he does not take seriously. On this they are absolutely 
right. What they are saying is what I have said myself when 
I said that the emotion expressed by a work of art cannot be 
merely an ‘aesthetic emotion’, but that this so-called aesthetic 
emotion is itself a translation into imaginative form of an 
emotion which must pre-exist to the activity of expressing 
it. It is an obvious corollary of this, that an artist who is 
not furnished, independently of being an artist, with deep 
and powerful emotions will never produce anything except 
shallow and frivolous works of art. 

It is clear, then, on my own premisses, that an artist with 
strong political views and feelings will be to that extent 
better qualified to produce works of art than one without. 
But the question is, what is he to do with these political 
views and feelings ? If the function of his art is to express 
them, to make a clean breast of them, because unless he can 
do this he cannot discover to himself or others what they are, 
he will be turning them into art. But if he begins by knowing 
what they are, and uses his art for the purpose of converting 
others to them, he will not be feeding his art on his political 
emotions, he will be stifling it beneath them. And by going 
on to stifle it harder and harder he will not be getting nearer 
to being a good artist. He will be getting farther away. 


He may be doing good service to politics, but he will be 

doing bad service to art. 

There is only one condition on which a man can simul- 
taneously do good service to politics and to art. It is, that the 
work of exploring and expressing one’s political emotions 
should be regarded as serviceable to politics. If there is any 
kind of political order whose realization involves the use of 
the muzzle, no one can serve that kind and at the same time 
serve art. 

§ 3. Good Art and Bad Art 

The definition of any given kind of thing is also the 
definition of a good thing of that kind: for a thing that is 
good in its kind is only a thing which possesses the attributes 
of that kind. To call things good and bad is to imply success 
and failure. When we call things good or bad not in them- 
selves but relatively to us, as when we speak of a good 
harvest or a bad thunderstorm, the success or failure implied 
is our own ; we mean that these things enable us to realize our 
purposes, or prevent us from doing so. When we call things 
good or bad in themselves, the success or failure implied is 
theirs. We are implying that they acquire the attributes of 
their kind by an effort on their own part, and that this effort 
may be either more or less successful. 

I am not raising the question whether it is true, as the 
Greeks thought, that there are natural kinds, and that what 
we call a dog is something that is trying to be a dog. For all 
my present argument is concerned, either that view may be 
true (in which case dogs can be good or bad in themselves), 
or the alternative view may be true, that the idea of a dog is 
only a way in which we choose to classify the things we come 
across, in which case dogs can be good or bad only in relation 
to us. I am only concerned with good and bad works of art. 
Now, a work of art is an activity of a certain kind; the 
agent is trying to do something definite, and in that 
attempt he may succeed or he may fail. It is, moreover, a 
conscious activity; the agent is not only trying to do some- 


thing definite, he also knows what it is that he is trying to do; 
though knowing here does not necessarily imply being able 
to describe, since to describe is to generalize, and generaliz- 
ing is the function of the intellect, and consciousness does 
not, as such, involve intellect. 

A work of art, therefore, may be either a good one or a 
bad one. And because the agent is necessarily a conscious 
agent, he necessarily knows which it is. Or rather, he neces- 
sarily knows this so far as his consciousness in respect of this 
work of art is uncorrupted; for we have seen (Chapter X, § 7) 
that there is such a thing as untruthful or corrupt con- 

Any theory of art should be required to show, if it wishes 
to be taken seriously, how an artist, in pursuing his artistic 
labour, is able to tell whether he is pursuing it successfully 
or unsuccessfully: how, for example, it is possible for him to 
say, ‘I am not satisfied with that line ; let us try it this way . . . 
and this way . . . and this way . . . there! that will do.’ A 
theory which pushes the artistic experience too far down the 
scale, to a point below the region where experience has the 
character of knowledge, is unable to meet this demand. It 
can only evade it by pretending that the artist in such cases 
is acting not as an artist, but as a critic and even (if criticism 
of art is identified with philosophy of art) as a philosopher. 
But this pretence should deceive nobody. The watching of 
his own work with a vigilant and discriminating eye, which 
decides at every moment of the process whether it is being 
successful or not, is not a critical activity subsequent to, and 
reflective upon, the artistic work, it is an integral part of that 
work itself. A person who can doubt this, if he has any grounds 
at all for his doubt, is presumably confusing the way an 
artist works with the way an incompetent student in an art- 
school works; painting blindly, and waiting for the master to 
show him what it is that he has been doing. In point of fact, 
what a student learns in an art-school is not so much to paint 
as to watch himself painting: to raise the psycho-physical 
activity of painting to the level of art by becoming conscious 


of it, and so converting it from a psychical experience into an 

imaginative one. 

What the artist is trying to do is to express a given emotion. 
To express it, and to express it well, are the same thing. To 
express it badly is not one way of expressing it (not, for 
example, expressing it, but not selon les regies ), it is failing to 
express it. A bad work of art is an activity in which the 
agent tries to express a given emotion, but fails. This is 
the difference between bad art and art falsely so called, to 
which reference was made on p. 277. In art falsely so called 
there is no failure to express, because there is no attempt at 
expression ; there is only an attempt (whether successful or 
not) to do something else. 

But expressing an emotion is the same thing as becoming 
conscious of it. A bad work of art is the unsuccessful attempt 
to become conscious of a given emotion : it is what Spinoza 
calls an inadequate idea of an affection. Now, a consciousness 
which thus fails to grasp its own emotions is a corrupt or 
untruthful consciousness. For its failure (like any other 
failure) is not a mere blankness; it is not a doing nothing; 
it is a misdoing something; it is activity, but blundering or 
frustrated activity. A person who tries to become conscious 
of a given emotion, and fails, is no longer in a state of sheer 
unconsciousness or innocence about that emotion; he has 
done something about it, but that something is not to express 
it. What he has done is either to shirk it or dodge it: to 
disguise it from himself by pretending cither that the emotion 
he feels is not that one but a different one, or that the person 
who feels it is not himself, but some one else : two alternatives 
which are so far from being mutually exclusive that in fact 
they are always concurrent and correlative. 

If we ask whether this pretence is conscious or uncon- 
scious, the answer is, neither. It is a process which occurs 
not in the region below consciousness (where it could not, 
of course, take place, since consciousness is involved in the 
process itself), nor yet in the region of consciousness (where 
equally it could not take place, because a man cannot literally 


tell himself a lie; in so far as he is conscious of the truth he 
cannot literally deceive himself about it); it occurs on the 
threshold that divides the psychical level of experience from 
the conscious level. It is the malperformance of the act which 
converts what is merely psychic (impression) into what is 
conscious (idea). 

The corruption of consciousness in virtue of which a man 
fails to express a given emotion makes him at the same time 
unable to know whether he has expressed it or not. He is, 
therefore, for one and the same reason, a bad artist and a 
bad judge of his own art. A person who is capable of pro- 
ducing bad art cannot, so far as he is capable of producing it, 
recognize it for what it is. He cannot, on the other hand, 
really think it good art; he cannot think that he has expressed 
himself when he has not. To mistake bad art for good art 
would imply having in one’s mind an idea of what good art 
is, and one has such an idea only so far as one knows what it 
is to have an uncorrupt consciousness; but no one can know 
this except a person who possesses one. An insincere mind, 
so far as it is insincere, has no conception of sincerity. 

But nobody’s consciousness can be wholly corrupt. If it 
were, he would be in a condition as much worse than the 
most complete insanity we can discover or imagine, as that 
is worse than the most complete sanity we can conceive. He 
would suffer simultaneously every possible kind of mental 
derangement, and every bodily disease that such derange- 
ments can bring in their train. Corruptions of consciousness 
are always partial and temporary lapses in an activity which, 
on the whole, is successful in doing what it tries to do. A per- 
son who on one occasion fails to express himself is a person 
quite accustomed to express himself successfully on other 
occasions, and to know that he is doing it. Through compari- 
son of this occasion with his memory of these others, there- 
fore, he ought to be able to see that he has failed, this time, 
to express himself. And this is precisely what every artist is 
doing when he says, ‘This line won’t do’. He remembers 
what the experience of expressing himself is like, and in the 


light of that memory he realizes that the attempt embodied 
in this particular line has been a failure. Corruption of 
consciousness is not a recondite sin or a remote calamity 
which overcomes only an unfortunate or accursed few; it is a 
constant experience in the life of every artist, and his life is 
a constant and, on the whole, a successful warfare against it. 
But this warfare always involves a very present possibility of 
defeat; and then a certain corruption becomes inveterate. 

What we recognize as definite kinds of bad art are such 
inveterate corruptions of consciousness. Bad art is never the 
result of expressing what is in itself evil, or what is innocent 
perhaps in itself, but in a given society a thing inexpedient 
to be publicly said. Every one of us feels emotions which, 
if his neighbours became aware of them, would make them 
shrink from him with horror: emotions which, if he became 
aware of them, would make him horrified at himself. It is 
not the expression of these emotions that is bad art. Nor is 
it the expression of the horror they excite. On the contrary, 
bad art arises when instead of expressing these emotions we 
disown them, wishing to think ourselves innocent of the 
emotions that horrify us, or wishing to think ourselves too 
broad-minded to be horrified by them. 

Art is not a luxury, and bad art not a thing we can afford 
to tolerate. To know ourselves is the foundation of all life 
that develops beyond the merely psychical level of experience. 
Unless consciousness does its work successfully, the facts 
which it offers to intellect, the only things upon which 
intellect can build its fabric of thought, are false from the 
beginning. A truthful consciousness gives intellect a firm 
foundation upon which to build; a corrupt consciousness 
forces intellect to build on a quicksand. The falsehoods 
which an untruthful consciousness imposes on the intellect 
are falsehoods which intellect can never correct for itself. 
In so far as consciousness is corrupted, the very wells of truth 
are poisoned. Intellect can build nothing firm. Moral ideals 
are castles in the air. Political and economic systems are 
mere cobwebs. Even common sanity and bodily health are 


no longer secure. But corruption of consciousness is the same 
thing as bad art. 

I do not speak of these grave issues in order to magnify 
the office of any small section in our communities which 
arrogates to itself the name of artists. That would be absurd. 
Just as the life of a community depends for its very existence 
on honest dealing between man and man, the guardianship 
of this honesty being vested not in any one class or section, 
but in all and sundry, so the effort towards expression of 
emotions, the effort to overcome corruption of consciousness, 
is an effort that has to be made not by specialists only but by 
every one who uses language, whenever he uses it. Every 
utterance and every gesture that each one of us makes is a 
work of art. It is important to each one of us that in making 
them, however much he deceives others, he should not 
deceive himself. If he deceives himself in this matter, he has 
sown in himself a seed which, unless he roots it up again, 
may grow into any kind of wickedness, any kind of mental 
disease, any kind of stupidity and folly and insanity. Bad 
art, the corrupt consciousness, is the true radix malorum. 




§ i. Imagination and Truth 

If imagination were confused with make-believe, a theory 
identifying art with imagination would seem to imply that 
the artist is a kind of liar; a skilful, ingenious, pleasant, or 
even salutary liar, perhaps, but still a liar. That confusion, 
however, has already been repudiated. 

If imagination were sufficiently described, as it was in 
Chapter VII, § 4, as a form of experience which presents the 
real and the unreal in a kind of undistinguished amalgam 
or solution from which, later, the work of intellect is to 
precipitate or crystallize the truth, art as imagination would 
have a genuine and important function in human life; a 
function analogous to that whereby a scientist envisages the 
various possible hypotheses which later experiment and 
observation will enable him to reject or raise to the level of a 
theory. The business of art, on this view, would be to con- 
struct possible worlds, some of which, later on, thought will 
find real or action will make real. 

There would be a good deal of truth in this view of art, 
but it would still not be satisfactory. At the end of Book I we 
were left with two functions characteristic of art proper: the 
one imaginative, the other expressive. The view just stated 
develops the first of these, but ignores the second. And it 
develops the first in such a way that the second is, as it were, 
disfranchised from the start. An imagination which con- 
tented itself with constructing possible worlds could never 
be at the same time an expression of emotion. For an 
imaginative construction which expresses a given emotion is 
not merely possible, it is necessary. It is necessitated by that 
emotion ; for it is the only one which will express it. 

The work of art which on a given occasion a given artist 
creates is, that is to say, created by him not merely because 



he can create it but because* he must. If we call it one only 
out of a number of possible others each of which he might 
have created instead, we are saying what is not true. He is 
creating it at a certain point in his life, and he could not have 
created it at any other point, nor any other at that point. 
This is not because his works form a series in which each 
depends on the one before and leads on to the one after; that 
is a very superficial way of looking at the history of art, 
whether on a large scale or a small ; it is because each is created 
to express an emotion arising within him at that point in his 
life and no other. His career as an artist is certainly one of 
the things which have helped to bring him into that emotional 
state, but only one. 

If what an artist says on a given occasion is the only thing 
which on that occasion he can say; and if the generative act 
which produces that utterance is an act of consciousness, and 
hence an act of thought; it follows that this utterance, so far 
from being indifferent to the distinction between truth and 
falsehood, is necessarily an attempt to state the truth. So 
far as the utterance is a good work of art, it is a true utter- 
ance; its artistic merit and its truth are the same thing. 

This is often denied; but it is denied because of mis- 
apprehension. We have distinguished two forms of thought: 
consciousness and intellect. Now intellect is concerned with 
the relations between things ; therefore intellect, since its truth 
is a peculiar kind of truth, namely, a relational truth, has a 
peculiar way of apprehending it, namely, arguing or inferring. 
Consciousness as such, and therefore art as such, not being 
intellect, does not and cannot argue. It cannot say, ‘this, 
therefore that*, or, ‘this, therefore not that’. Now, if any one 
thinks (we need not ask why) that intellect is the only possible 
form of thought, he will think that whatever does not contain 
arguments cannot be a form of thought, and therefore cannot 
be concerned with truth. Observing that art does not argue, 
he will infer that art has nothing to do with truth. A poet 
will say at one time that his lady is a paragon of all the virtues ; 
at another time that she has a heart as black as hell. At one 


time he will say that the world is a fine place; at another, 
that it is a dust-heap and a dunghill and a pestilent con- 
glomeration of vapours. To the intellect, these are incon- 
sistencies. A lady, we are told, cannot be a paragon of virtue 
at one time and as black as hell at another; therefore a person 
who says she is must be making it up. He cannot be telling 
the truth; he must be dealing with appearances and not 
realities ; emotions and not facts . 1 

It is hardly worth while to refute this argument, by 
pointing out that truthfulness about one’s emotions is still 
truthfulness. A poet who is disgusted with life to-day, and 
says so, is not saying that he undertakes to be still disgusted 
to-morrow. But it is not any the less true that, to-day, life 
disgusts him. His disgust may be an emotion, but it is a fact 
that he feels it; the disgustingness of life may be an appear- 
ance, but the fact of its appearing is a reality. And on the 
poet’s behalf it may be replied, to some one who argues that 
a lady cannot be both adorably virtuous and repellently 
vicious, or that the world cannot be both a paradise and a 
dust-heap, that the arguer seems to know more about logic 
than he does about ladies, or about the world. 

;Art is not indifferent to truth; it is essentially the pursuit 
of truth. But the truth it pursues is not a truth of relation, 
it is a truth of individual fact. The truths art discovers are 
those single and self-contained individualities which from 
the intellectual point of view become the ‘terms’ between 
which it is the business of intellect to establish or apprehend 
relations. Each of these individualities, as art discovers it, 
is a perfectly concrete individual, one from which nothing 
has yet been abstracted by the work of intellect., Each is an 
experience in which the distinction between what is due to 
myself and what is due to my world has not yet been made, v 
If that experience consists in admiring a lady, I do not as 
poet ask whether this happens because in herself she is 

1 I am not ao much criticizing anybody else, as doing penance for youthful 
follies of my own. See Outline of a Philosophy of Art (1925), p. 23 ; Speculum 
Mentis (1924), pp. 59-60. 


somehow different from other ladies, or because I am for 
some reason in an admiring mood. I am doing something 
quite different from asking such questions; I am discovering 
a thing of the kind about which, later on, such questions may 
have to be asked. If it turns out that we cannot answer them, 
it will not follow that the things about which they are asked 
were incorrectly observed. 

§ 2. Art as Theory and Art as Practice 

Art is knowledge; knowledge of the individual. It is not 
on that account a purely ‘theoretical’ activity as distinct from 
a ‘practical’. The distinction between theoretical and prac- 
tical activities has, of course, a certain value, but it must not 
be applied indiscriminately. We are accustomed to apply it, 
and to find that it makes sense, in cases where we are con- 
cerned with a relation between ourselves and our environ- 
ment. An activity in ourselves which produces a change in 
us but none in our environment we call theoretical ; one which 
produces a change in our environment but none in ourselves 
we call practical. But there are plenty of cases in which we 
are either unaware of any distinction between ourselves and 
our environment, or in which, if we are aware of it, we are 
not concerned with it. 

When we really begin to understand the problems of 
morality, for example, we find that they have nothing to do 
with changes we can produce in the world around us, our- 
selves remaining unchanged. They have to do with changes 
to be produced in ourselves. Thus, the question whether I 
shall return a book to the man I borrowed it from, or keep it 
and deny having borrowed it if he asks me to give it back, 
raises no serious moral problem. Which of the two things 
I shall in fact do depends on the kind of man I am. But the 
question whether I shall be an honest man or a dishonest one 
is a question that raises moral problems of the most acute 
kind. If I find myself to be dishonest, and decide to become 
honest, I am tackling, or setting out to tackle, a genuinely 
moral difficulty. But if I solve this difficulty the result will 


not be a change in myself only. It will involve changes in 
my environment too; for out of the new character which I 
shall acquire there will flow actions which will certainly to 
some extent alter my world. Hence morality belongs to a 
region of experience which is neither theoretical nor practical, 
but both at once. It is theoretical because it consists in part 
of finding things out about ourselves; not merely doing 
things, but thinking what we are doing. It is practical 
because it consists not merely of thinking, but of putting our 
thoughts into practice. 

In the case of art, the distinction between theory and prac- 
tice or thought and action has not been left behind, as it has 
in the case of any morality that deserves the name (I say 
nothing of the petty moralities that often usurp it); that 
distinction has not yet arisen. Such a distinction only 
presents itself to us when, by the abstractive work of intellect, 
we learn to dissect a given experience into two parts, one 
belonging to ‘the subject’ and the other to ‘the object'. The 
individual of which art is the knowledge is an individual 
situation in which we find ourselves. We are only conscious 
of the situation as our situation, and we are only conscious 
of ourselves as involved in the situation. Other people may 
be involved in it too, but these, like ourselves, are present to 
our consciousness only as factors in the situation, not as 
persons who outside the situation have lives of their own. 

Because the artistic consciousness (that is, consciousness as 
such) does not distinguish between itself and its world, its 
world being for it simply what is here and now experienced, 
and itself being simply the fact that this is here and now 
experienced, its distinctive activity is properly neither theo- 
retical nor practical. For a person cannot properly be said to 
act either theoretically or practically except in so far as he 
thinks of himself as so acting. To an observer, the artist 
appears as acting both theoretically and practically; to himself, 
he appears as acting in neither way, because either way of 
acting implies distinctions which, as artist, he does not draw. 
All that we, as aesthetic theorists, can do is to recognize 


features in his activity which we should call theoretical, 
and others which we should call practical, and at the same 
time to recognize that for him the distinction does not 

Theoretically, the artist is a person who comes to know 
himself, to know his own emotion. This is also knowing his 
world, that is, the sights and sounds and so forth which 
together make up his total imaginative experience. The two 
knowledges are to him one knowledge, because these sights 
and sounds are to him steeped in the emotion with which he 
contemplates them: they are the language in which that 
emotion utters itself to his consciousness. His world is his 
language. What it says to him it says about himself; his 
imaginative vision of it is his self-knowledge. 

But this knowing of himself is a making of himself. At 
first he is mere psyche, the possessor of merely psychical 
experiences or impressions. The act of coming to know him- 
self is the act of converting his impressions into ideas, and so 
of converting himself from mere psyche into consciousness. 
The coming to know his emotions is the coming to dominate 
them, to assert himself as their master. He has not yet, it 
is true, entered upon the life of morality; but he has taken an 
indispensable step forward towards it. He has learnt to 
acquire by his own efforts a new set of mental endowments. 
That is an accomplishment which must be learnt first, if 
later he is to acquire by his own effort mental endowments 
whose possession will bring him nearer to his moral ideal. 

Moreover, his knowing of this new world is also the mak- 
ing of the new world which he is coming to know. The world 
he has come to know is a world consisting of language; a 
world where everything has the property of expressing 
emotion. In so far as this world is thus expressive or signi- 
ficant, it is he that has made it so. He has not, of course, 
made it ‘out of nothing*. He is not God, but a finite mind 
still at a very elementary stage in the development of its 
powers. He has made it ‘out of’ what is presented to him in 
the still more elementary stage of purely psychical experience : 


colours, sounds, and so forth. I know that many readers, in 
loyalty to certain brands of metaphysic now popular, will 
wish to deny this. It might seem advisable for me to consider 
their denials, which are very familiar, and refute them, 
which would be very easy. But I will not do this. I am 
writing not to make converts, but to say what I think. If any 
reader thinks he knows better, I would rather he went on 
working out his own lines of thought than tried to adopt 

To return. The aesthetic experience, as we look back at it 
from a point of view where we distinguish theoretical from 
practical activity, thus presents characteristics of both kinds. 
It is a knowing of oneself and of one’s world, these two 
knowns and knowi igs being not yet distinguished, so that the 
self is expressed in the world, the world consisting of lan- 
guage whose meaning is that emotional experience which 
constitutes the self, and the self consisting of emotions 
which are known only as expressed in the language which is 
the world. It is also a making of oneself and of one’s world, 
the self which was psyche being remade in the shape of 
consciousness, and the world, which was crude sensa, being 
remade in the shape of language, or sensa converted into 
imagery and charged with emotional significance. The step 
forward in the development of experience which leads from 
the psychic level to the level of consciousness (and that step 
is the specific achievement of art) is thus a step forward both 
in theory and in practice, although it is one step only and 
not two; as a progress along a railway-line towards a certain 
junction is a progress towards both the regions served by 
the two lines which divide at that junction. For that matter, 
it is also a progress towards the region in which, later, those 
two lines reunite. 

§ 3. Art and Intellect 

Art as such contains nothing that is due to intellect. Its 
essence is that of an activity by which we become conscious 
of our own emotions. Now, there are emotions which exist 


in us, but of which we are not yet conscious, at the level of 
psychical experience. Therefore art finds in purely psychical 
experience a situation of the type with which it essentially 
deals, and a problem of the kind which its essential business 
is to solve. 

This might seem to be not only a problem such as art 
exists to solve, but the only problem which it can solve. It 
might seem, in other words, that psychical emotions are the 
only emotions which art can express. For all other emotions 
are generated at levels of experience subsequent to the 
emergence of consciousness, and therefore (it might be 
thought) under the eyes of consciousness. They are born, 
it might seem, in the light of consciousness, with expressions 
ready-made for them at birth. There can, therefore, be no need 
to express them through works of art. 

The logical consequence of this argument would be that 
no work of art, if it is a genuine work of art, can contain in its 
subject-matter anything that is due to the work of intellect. 
This is not what I said in the first sentence of this section. 
Art as such might contain nothing that is due to intellect, and 
yet certain works of art might contain much that is due to 
intellect, not because they are works of art, but because they 
are works of a certain kind; that is, because they express 
emotions of a certain kind, namely, emotions that can arise 
only as the emotional charges upon intellectual activities. 

Here, then, we have two alternatives. Either the subject- 
matter of a work of art (that is, the emotion it expresses) is 
drawn exclusively from the psychical level of experience, 
because that is the only level at which there exists any 
experience of which we are not conscious; or it may also 
include elements drawn from other levels, in which case these 
levels, too, will contain elements of which, until we find ex- 
pression for them, we are not conscious. 

If these two alternatives are considered in the light of the 
question : what emotions do this and that work of art actually 
express ? it will hardly be doubted, I think, that the second 
alternative is right. If we examine almost any work of art 


we like to choose, and consider what emotions it expresses, 
we shall find that they include some, and those not the least 
important, which are intellectual emotions : emotions which 
can only be felt by an intellectual being, and are in fact felt 
because such a being uses his intellect in certain ways. They 
are the emotional charges not upon a merely psychical 
experience, nor upon experience at the level of mere con- 
sciousness, but upon intellectual experience or thought in 
the narrower sense of the word. 

And this, if we come to think of it, is inevitable. For even 
if a certain emotion is, as I put it, endowed at birth with its 
own proper expression, this is only a way of saying that the 
work of expression has already been done in its case; and if 
done, done by the artistic consciousness. And every emotion 
is, if not born with the silver spoon of expression in its mouth, 
at least reborn in that state on the occasion of its second birth 
as idea, as distinct from impression. Since the emotional 
life of the conscious and intellectual levels of experience is far 
richer than that of the merely psychical level, therefore 
(Chapter XI, § 3), it is only natural that the emotional sub- 
ject-matter of works of art should be drawn mostly from 
emotions belonging to these higher levels. 

For example, Romeo and Juliet form the subject of a 
play not because they are two organisms sexually attracted, 
however powerfully, to each other; nor because they are 
two human beings experiencing this attraction and con- 
scious of the experience, that is, two human beings in 
love; but because their love is woven into the fabric of 
a complicated social and political situation, and is broken 
by the strains to which that situation subjects it. The 
emotion experienced by Shakespeare and expressed by 
him in the play is not an emotion arising simply out of 
sexual passion or his sympathy with it, but an emotion 
arising out of his (intellectual) apprehension of the way in 
which passion may thus cut across social and political condi- 
tions. Similarly, Lear is envisaged, by Shakespeare and by 
ourselves, not simply as an old man suffering cold and hunger, 


but as a father suffering these things at the hands of his 
daughters. Apart from the idea of the family, intellectually 
conceived as a principle of social morality, the tragedy of 
Lear would not exist. The emotions expressed in these plays 
are thus emotions arising out of a situation which could not 
generate them unless it were intellectually apprehended. 

The poet converts human experience into poetry not by 
first expurgating it, cutting out the intellectual elements and 
preserving the emotional, and then expressing this residue; 
but by fusing thought itself into emotion: thinking in a 
certain way and then expressing how it feels to think in that 
way. Thus Dante has fused the Thomistic philosophy into 
a poem expressing what it feels like to be a Thomist. 1 Shelley, 
when he made the earth say, ‘I spin beneath my pyramid of 
night’, expressed what it feels like to be a Copernican. Donne 
(and this is why he has become so congenial to ourselves in 
the last twenty or thirty years) has expressed how it feels to 
live in a world full of shattered ideas, disjecta membra of old 
systems of life and thought, where intellectual activity is 
itself correspondingly shattered into momentary figura- 
tions of thinking, related to each other only by an absence 
of all logical connexion, and where the prevailing emotional 
tone of thought is simply the sense of this shatteredness : a 
tone expressed over and over again in his poems, for example 
in ‘The Glasse’, and in the shape of a moral idea by his many 
verses in praise of inconstancy. And Mr. Eliot, in the one 
great English poem of this century, has expressed his idea 
(not his alone) of the decay of our civilization, manifested 
outwardly as a break-down of social structures and inwardly 
as a drying-up of the emotional springs of life. 

I am not saying that every poet has a philosophical system, 
and that his poetry expounds it. But my reason for refusing 
to say this is not so much because it would be untrue as 
because it would be misleading. What most people think 
of as a philosophical system is a collection of doctrines 
deliberately invented by an individual philosopher in the 
1 Or however else one labels his (not wholly Thomistic) philosophy. 


attempt to reduce the whole of his experience to private 
formulae. I do not believe that such things exist. What I 
find in the writings of any one philosopher is nothing like 
that; it is more like a series of attempts to think, more clearly 
and consistently than his contemporaries, in ways more or 
less common to them all. 

The poets share these ways of thinking, and express them 
in their poetry. How then does this poetic expression of 
them differ from their philosophical expression ? The 
difference does not consist in the fact, if it is a fact, that the 
poet writes or speaks in verse and the philosopher in prose. 
Philosophers have written in verse, and have not on that 
account been poets ; imaginative artists have written in prose, 
and have been poets none the less. It does not consist in a 
supposed distinction between the ‘emotive use of language’ 
and the ‘scientific’. We saw in an earlier chapter that any 
such distinction is chimerical. It does not consist in a 
distinction between language expressing emotion and lan- 
guage expressing thought, for all language expresses emotion. 
It does not consist in a distinction between language in its 
original form, as expressing the emotions of consciousness, 
and intellectualized language, as expressing intellectual 
emotions; for, as we have just seen, the poet is under no 
embargo on the expression of intellectual emotions; on the 
contrary, these are what he normally expresses. 

We shall come no nearer to a satisfactory distinction if 
we think of the poet as merely imagining himself to conceive 
ideas which if he were a philosopher he would be either 
holding or rejecting in earnest. No doubt, there have been 
people called artists who have thus dramatized themselves 
into a kind of make-believe philosopher, posing to them- 
selves as holding views which in fact they have not under- 
stood. But these have not been artists proper. They belong 
not to the aesthetic world of imaginative experience, but to 
the pseudo-aesthetic world of make-believe. Dante was 
perfectly in earnest with his Thomism, and Shelley with his 
Copernicanism. And it is part of a philosopher’s business to 


take up and think out hypothetically, accepting them 
provisionally ‘for the sake of argument’, that is, in order to 
find out what they involve, views which he need not either 
accept or reject. 

A more promising method of differentiating would be to 
distinguish exposition from argument, as a static from a 
dynamic aspect of thought. The business of St. Thomas 
himself is not to expound Thomism, but to arrive at it: to 
build up arguments whose purpose is to criticize other 
philosophical views and by criticizing them to lead himself 
and his readers towards what he hopes will be a satisfactory 
one. Ever since Pythagoras (or so we are told) invented the 
word philosophy, in order to express the notion of the philo- 
sopher not as one who possesses wisdom but as one who 
aspires to it, students of philosophy have recognized that the 
essence of their business lies not in holding this view or that, 
but in aiming at some view not yet achieved : in the labour 
and adventure of thinking, not in the results of it. What a 
genuine philosopher (as distinct from a teacher of philosophy 
for purposes of examination) tries to express when he writes 
is the experience he enjoys in the course of this adventure, 
where theories and systems are only incidents in the journey. 
For the poet, there is, perhaps, none of this dynamism of 
thinking. He finds himself equipped, as it were, with certain 
ideas, and expresses the way in which it feels to possess them. 
Poetry, then, in so far as it is the poetry of a thinking man 
and addressed to a thinking audience, may be described as 
expressing the intellectual emotion attendant upon thinking 
in a certain way: philosophy, the intellectual emotion atten- 
dant upon trying to think better. 

I do not know how else to distinguish the two, as species 
of literary composition, except either by substituting pseudo- 
philosophy for philosophy (or pseudo-poetry for poetry, or 
both), or by using distinctions which I know to be false. But 
the distinction I have stated is, I would insist, arbitrary and 
precarious. I see no reason why the intellectual experience 
of building up or criticizing a philosophical view should not 


afford the poet a subject-matter no less fertile than that of 
merely holding it. And I am sure that a philosopher who 
expressed the experience of developing a view, without 
making it clear to himself and his readers what view he was 
developing, would be doing only half his work. The result 
would seem to be that the distinction between philosophical 
writing (and what I say applies equally to historical and 
scientific writing) and poetical or artistic writing is either 
wholly illusory, or else it applies only to a distinction between 
bad philosophical writing and good poetic, or bad poetic and 
good philosophical, or bad philosophical and bad poetic. 
Good philosophy and good poetry are not two different kinds 
of writing, but one; each is simply good writing. In so far 
as each is good, each converges, as regards style and literary 
form, with the other; and in the limiting case where each was 
as good as it ought to be, the distinction would disappear. 

This seems paradoxical only because we inherit a vicious 
late nineteenth-century tradition according to which the 
artist conceives himself as aloof from the general interests 
and activities of his time, a member of a coterie whose only 
concern is art for art’s sake. To writers suffering from that 
delusion (which, as I showed in a previous chapter, arose from 
the conception of art as amusement) there seems to be an 
artistic way of writing, quite distinct from the inartistic way 
adopted by scientists and philosophers and others outside 
the coterie. But when once it is realized that art and language 
are the same thing, this distinction vanishes. There can be 
no such thing as inartistic writing, unless that means merely 
bad writing. And there can be no such thing as artistic 
writing; there is only writing. 

To put this in terms of practice: we have got into the 
habit of thinking that a writer must belong to one of two 
classes. Either he is a ‘pure’ writer, concerned to write as 
well as he can, in which case he is a literary man; or he is an 
‘applied’ writer (to adapt the old distinction between pure 
and applied science), concerned to express certain definite 
thoughts, and anxious to write only well enough to make his 


thoughts clear, and no better. This distinction must go. 
Each of these ideals, if there is to be any future for literature, 
must fertilize the other. The scientist and historian and 
philosopher must go to school with the man of letters, and 
study to write as well as writing can be done. The literary 
man must go to school with the scientist and his likes, and 
study to expound a subject instead of merely exhibiting a 
style. Subject without style is barbarism; style without sub- 
ject is dilettantism. Art is the two together. 


§ x. Extern alization 

The work of art, as we have seen, is not a bodily or percep- 
tible thing, but an activity of the artist; and not an activity of 
his ‘body’ or sensuous nature, but an activity of his conscious- 
ness. A problem arises out of this statement, concerning the 
artist’s relation to his audience. 

It seems to be a normal part of the artist’s work that he 
should communicate his experience to other people. In order 
to do that, he must have means of communication with them; 
and these means are something bodily and perceptible, a 
painted canvass, a carved stone, a written paper, and so forth. 

On the technical theory of art, all this is quite simple. The 
artist is an artist in so far as he succeeds in affecting his 
audience in certain ways. The painted canvass or the like 
is the means which he adopts to this end. The painted 
canvass is in fact the work of art: the work of art is a bodily 
and perceptible thing, and earns the title of work of art by 
producing in the audience the desired result. The artist’s 
relation to his audience is thus essential to his being an artist. 

On the theory of art propounded in this book, this relation 
to the audience seems at first sight to become inessential. 
It seems to disappear altogether from the province of art as 
such. If it still exists, it is due not to aesthetic considerations, 
but to considerations of another kind. For art, on this theory, 
is the expression of emotion, or language. Now language as 
such is not necessarily addressed to any one. The artist as 
such, therefore, is a person who talks or expresses himself, 
and his expression in no way depends upon or demands the 
co-operation of an audience. The audience would seem to 
consist at best of persons whom the artist permits to overhear 
him as he speaks. Whether anybody so overhears him or not 
makes no difference to the fact that he has expressed his 


emotions and has therefore completed the work in virtue of 
which he is an artist. 

In order to round off this view, we must next ask: then 
why does the artist take pains (as he admittedly does in 
normal cases) to bring himself into relation with an audience ? 
His motives are, ex hypothesis non-aesthetic : he does not do 
it because otherwise his own aesthetic experience is incom- 
plete; but they need not always be of one and the same kind. 
In some cases he does it because, as a moral being, he desires 
that other people should share an experience which he finds 
so valuable; in some, because he must make a living. That 
is to say, in relation to his audience he is either a missionary 
or a salesman of the aesthetic experience. 

This view seems at first sight, as I say, to be implied in 
the theory of art as expression. Actually, it is inconsistent 
with that theory: it is a relic of the technical theory. For 
what the artist gives as missionary or sells as tradesman is not 
an aesthetic experience, but certain bodily and perceptible 
things: painted canvasses, carved stones, and the like; and 
these things are given and taken, it is assumed, because they 
have the power of evoking certain aesthetic experiences in a 
person who contemplates them. It is further assumed that 
the receiver cannot enjoy these experiences otherwise. They 
are, that is to say, means, and indispensable means, to his 
enjoyment of these experiences: and this is the technical 
theory of art. 

We are, in fact, assuming two different theories of aesthetic 
experience, one for the artist, another for the audience. The 
aesthetic experience in itself, we are assuming, is in both 
cases a purely inward experience, taking place wholly in the 
mind of the person who enjoys it. But this inward experience 
is supposed to stand in a double relation to something out- 
ward or bodily, (a) For the artist, the inward experience may 
be externalized or converted into a perceptible object ; though 
there is no intrinsic reason why it should be. ( 'h ) For the 
audience, there is a converse process : the outward experience 
comes first, and this is converted into that inward experience 

4436 X 


which alone is aesthetic. But if the relation between inward 
and outward is casual and fortuitous in («), how can it be 
indispensable in ( 'b ) ? If the bodily and perceptible ‘work of 
art’ is unnecessary to aesthetic experience in the case of the 
artist, why should it be necessary to it in the case of the 
audience ? If it can be in no way helpful to the one, how can 
it be in any way helpful to the other ? Most serious of all, if 
aesthetic experience in the artist is something wholly inde- 
pendent of such outward things, but in the audience is some- 
thing dependent upon them and derived from contemplation 
of them, how is it an experience of the same kind in the two 
cases, and how is there any communication ? 

The view of the artist’s relation to his audience which I 
have put forward in this section combines a technical theory of 
art, where the audience is concerned, with a non-technical or 
expressive theory for the case of the artist, and is therefore 
inconsistent with itself. But the error lies deeper than this. 
If the implications of the expressive theory had been com- 
pletely grasped in the case of the artist, there would have 
been no need to fall back upon the technical theory in dis- 
cussing his relation with his audience. Our first problem, 
therefore, concerns the artist. We must ask: what is the 
relation between the artist’s aesthetic experience and the 
painted canvasses, carved stones, and so forth, in which, 
according to the view I have stated and criticized, he 
‘externalizes’ it? 

§ 2. Painting and Seeing 

An artist who sits down in front of a subject and begins to 
paint it is generally, like any one doing anything, acting 
from very mixed motives. If he cannot give a short and 
simple answer to the question, ‘Why are you painting that 
subject?’ it is not because he is an unphilosophical person, 
unaccustomed to analysing his own actions. It is because 
there is no short and simple answer to give. In order to 
get the question answered, we must define it much more 


We are not asking what led him to become, or leads him 
to remain, a painter; we assume that he is one. We are not 
asking why he chose that subject; we assume the subject 
chosen. We are not asking him what he means to do with 
the sketch when he has painted it; we assume that he cannot 
decide until it is finished. We are not asking him whether he 
gets an aesthetic experience from looking at his subject; we 
assume that he would not be painting it unless he did. What 
we are asking him about is the nature of the connexion that 
exists between the fact of his getting an aesthetic experience 
from looking at the subject and the fact of his painting it. 
Our question, then, comes to this: ‘Are you painting that 
subject in order to enable other people (including yourself on 
a future occasion) to enjoy an aesthetic experience which, 
independently of painting it, you get completely from just 
looking at the subject itself; or are you painting it because 
the experience itself only develops and defines itself in your 
mind as you paint?’ 

Any artist who understood the terms of our question would 
answer promptly and decidedly, ‘The second, of course’. 
He would probably continue, if he felt disposed to talk, by 
saying: ‘One paints a thing in order to see it. People who don’t 
paint, naturally, won’t believe that; it would be too humi- 
liating to themselves. They like to fancy that everybody, or at 
least everybody of refinement and taste like themselves, sees 
just as much as an artist sees, and that the artist only differs 
in having the technical accomplishment of painting what he 
sees. But that is nonsense. You see something in your 
subject, of course, before you begin to paint it (though how 
much, even of that, you would see if you weren’t already a 
painter is a difficult question) ; and that, no doubt, is what 
induces you to begin painting; but only a person with ex- 
perience of painting, and of painting well, can realize how 
little that is, compared with what you come to see in it as 
your painting progresses. If you paint badly, of course, that 
doesn’t happen. Your own daub comes between you and the 
subject, and you can only see the mess you are making. But 


a good painter — any good painter will tell you the same — 
paints things because until he has painted them he doesn’t 
know what they are like.’ 

Before we dismiss these observations as mere professional 
conceit, we must bear in mind that when the painter talks of 
seeing he is not referring to mere visual sensation. He does 
not think that one’s eyes become sharper through the exercise 
of painting. Seeing, in his vocabulary, refers not to sensation 
but to awareness. It means noticing what you see. And 
further: this act of awareness, as he is talking about it, in- 
cludes the noticing of much that is not visual. It includes an 
awareness of ‘tactile values’ or the solid shapes of things, 
their relative distances, and other spatial facts which could be 
sensuously apprehended only through muscular motion. It 
includes, too, an awareness of things like warmth and cool- 
ness, stillness and noise. In other words, it is a comprehensive 
awareness of the kind which I described in Chapter VII, 
§ 6, as a total imaginative experience. 

What our painter is saying, then, comes to this. The 
painted picture is not produced by a further activity upon 
which he embarks, when his aesthetic activity has already 
arrived at completion, in order to achieve by its means a non- 
aesthetic end. Nor is it produced by an activity anterior to 
the aesthetic, as means towards the achievement of aesthetic 
experience. It is produced by an activity which is somehow 
or other bound up with the development of that experience 
itself. The two activities are not identical ; he distinguishes 
them by the names of ‘painting’ and ‘seeing’ respectively; 
but they are connected in such a way that, he assures us, each 
is conditional upon the other. Only a person who paints well 
can see well ; and conversely (as he would tell us with equal 
confidence if we asked him) only a person who sees well can 
paint well. There is no question of ‘externalizing’ an inward 
experience which is complete in itself and by itself. There 
are two experiences, an inward or imaginative one called 
seeing and an outward or bodily one called painting, which 
in the painter’s life are inseparable, and form one single 


indivisible experience, an experience which may be described 
as painting imaginatively. 

§ 3. The Bodily ‘ Work of Art' 

In the preceding section we have only considered the 
testimony of a painter, who (I need hardly say) is not an 
imaginary character, concerning the relation between the 
inward aesthetic experience and the outward activity of 
painting. We have now to consider the relation which that 
testimony bears to the general theory of art maintained in 
this book. 

In Chapter VII it was said that a work of art in the proper 
sense of that phrase is not an artifact, not a bodily or per- 
ceptible thing fabricated by the artist, but something existing 
solely in the artist’s head, a creature of his imagination ; and 
not only a visual or auditory imagination, but a total imagina- 
tive experience. It follows that the painted picture is not 
the work of art in the proper sense of that phrase. No reader, 
I hope, has been inattentive enough to imagine that in the 
preceding section this doctrine has been forgotten or denied. 
What has been asserted is not that the painting is a work of 
art, which would be as much as to say that the artist’s 
aesthetic activity is identical with painting it; but that its 
production is somehow necessarily connected with the 
aesthetic activity, that is, with the creation of the imagina- 
tive experience which is the work of art. What we are now 
asking is whether, on our theory, there must indeed be such 
a connexion. 

The question can only be answered in the light of a general 
theory of imagination and language. It was maintained in 
Book II that a distinction exists between various ‘levels’ of 
experience, two of which were respectively called the 
psychical level and the conscious level. Each level, it was 
said, presupposes the one below it, not in the sense that the 
lower is left behind when the higher is reached, but in the 
sense that the lower is related to the higher somewhat as a 
raw material is related to something made out of it by 


imposing upon it a new form. The higher thus contains the 
lower within itself as its own matter, the special principles 
of the higher being, as it were, a form according to which 
this matter is now organized. By this reorganization the 
lower is modified in certain ways. For example, the transi- 
tion from the psychical level to the conscious level entails the 
conversion of impressions, which are the elements of which 
psychical experience consists, into ideas, or (which is the same 
thing) of sensuous experience into imaginative experience. 
What converts impressions into ideas, or sensation into 
imagination, is the activity of awareness or consciousness . 1 

If this is so, there can be no ideas without impressions; 
for every idea is an impression which the work of conscious- 
ness converts into an idea. The impression from which a 
given idea is, as Hume puts it, ‘derived’, is not a past im- 
pression degraded by mere passage of time into an idea; 
it is a present impression elevated into an idea by the work of 
consciousness. Wherever there is an idea, or imaginative 
experience, there are also the following elements: (i) an 
impression, or sensuous experience, corresponding with it; 
(2) an act of consciousness converting that impression into 
an idea. When the impression is said to correspond with the 
idea, what is meant is that it is the impression which an act 
of consciousness would convert into that idea and no other. 

We get, therefore, this result. Every imaginative experi- 
ence is a sensuous experience raised to the imaginative level 
by an act of consciousness; or, every imaginative experience 
is a sensuous experience together with consciousness of the 
same. Now the aesthetic experience is an imaginative ex- 
perience. It is wholly and entirely imaginative ; it contains no 
elements that are not imaginative, and the only power which 
can generate it is the power of the experient’s consciousness. 
But it is not generated out of nothing. Being an imaginative 
experience, it presupposes a corresponding sensuous experi- 
ence; where to say that it presupposes this does not mean that 
it arises subsequently to this, but that it is generated by the 
1 For all this, see Chapter X, especially §§ 5, 6, 


act which converts this into it. The sensuous experience 
need not exist by itself first. It may come into being under 
the very eyes, so to speak, of consciousness, so that it no 
sooner comes into being than it is transmuted into imagina- 
tion. Nevertheless, there is always a distinction between what 
transmutes (consciousness), what is transmuted (sensation), 
and what it is transmuted into (imagination). 

The transmuted or sensuous element in the aesthetic 
experience is the so-called outward element: in the case under 
examination, the artist’s psycho-physical activity of painting; 
his visual sensation of the colours and shapes of his subject, 
his felt gestures as he manipulates his brush, the seen shapes 
of paint patches that these gestures leave on his canvass : in 
short, the total sensuous (or rather, sensuous-emotional) 
experience of a man at work before his easel. Unless this 
sensuous experience were actually present, there would be 
nothing out of which consciousness could generate the 
aesthetic experience which is ‘externalized’ or ‘recorded’ or 
‘expressed’ by the painted picture. But this sensuous ex- 
perience, although it is actually present, is never present by 
itself. Every element in it comes into existence under the 
eyes of the painter’s consciousness; or rather, this happens 
in so far as he is a good painter; it is only bad painters who 
paint without knowing what they are doing; and every 
element in it is therefore converted into imaginative experi- 
ence at birth. Nevertheless, reflection distinguishes between 
the imaginative experience and the sensuous experience out 
of which it is thus made, and discovers that ‘nihil est in 
imaginatione quod non fuerit in sensu’. 

What of the case where a man looks at the subject without 
painting ? He, too, has an aesthetic experience in so far as his 
impressions are transmuted into ideas by the activity of his 
imagination. But our artist was right to claim that there is 
far less in that experience than in the experience of a man 
who has painted the subject; for the sensuous elements 
involved in merely looking, even where looking is accom- 
panied by a smile of pleasure, gestures, and so forth, are 


necessarily much scantier and poorer, and also much less 
highly organized in their totality, than the sensuous elements 
involved in painting. If you want to get more out of an 
experience, you must put more into it. The painter puts a 
great deal more into his experience of the subject than a man 
who merely looks at it; he puts into it, in addition, the whole 
consciously performed activity of painting it; what he gets 
out of it, therefore, is proportionately more. And this 
increment is an essential part of what he ‘externalizes’ or 
‘records’ in his picture: he records there not the experience 
of looking at the subject without painting it, but the far 
richer and in some ways very different experience of looking 
at it and painting it together. 

§ 4. The Audience as Understander 

What is meant by saying that the painter ‘records’ in his 
picture the experience which he had in painting it? With 
this question we come to the subject of the audience, for the 
audience consists of anybody and everybody to whom such 
records are significant. 

It means that the picture, when seen by some one else or 
by the painter himself subsequently, produces in him (we 
need not ask how) sensuous-emotional or psychical experi- 
ences which, when raised from impressions to ideas by the 
activity of the spectator’s consciousness, are transmuted into 
a total imaginative experience identical with that of the 
painter. This experience of the spectator’s does not repeat 
the comparatively poor experience of a person who merely 
looks at the subject; it repeats the richer and more highly 
organized experience of a person who has not only looked at 
it but has painted it as well. - ' 

That is why, as so many people have observed, we ‘see 
more in’ a really good picture of a given subject than we do 
in the subject itself. That is why, too, many people prefer 
what is called ‘nature’ or ‘real life’ to the finest pictures, 
because they prefer not to be shown so much, in order to 
keep their apprehensions at a lower and more manageable 


level, where they can embroider what they see with likes and 
dislikes, fancies and emotions of their own, not intrinsically 
connected with the subject. A great portrait painter, in the 
time it takes him to paint a sitter, intensely active in absorb- 
ing impressions and converting them into an imaginative 
vision of the man, may easily see through the mask that is 
good enough to deceive a less active and less pertinacious 
observer, and detect in a mouth or an eye or the turn of a 
head things that have long been concealed. There is nothing 
mysterious about this insight. Every one judges men by the 
impressions he gets of them and his power of becoming 
aware of these impressions; and the artist is a man whose 
life’s work consists in doing that. The wonder is rather 
that so few artists do it revealingly. That is perhaps because 
people do not want it done, and artists fall in with their 
desire for what is called a good likeness, a picture that 
reveals nothing new, but only recalls what they have already 
felt in the sitter’s presence. 

How is any one to know that the imaginative experience 
which the spectator, by the work of his consciousness, makes 
out of the sensations he receives from a painting ‘repeats’, 
or is ‘identical’ with, the experience which the artist had in 
painting it? That question has already been raised about 
language in general (Ch. XI, § 5) and answered by saying 
that there is no possibility of an absolute assurance; the only 
assurance we can have ‘is an empirical and relative assurance, 
becoming progressively stronger as conversation proceeds, 
and based on the fact that neither party seems to the other 
to be talking nonsense’. The same answer holds good here. 
We can never absolutely know that the imaginative experi- 
ence we obtain from a work of art is identical with that of the 
artist. In proportion as the artist is a great one, we can be 
pretty certain that we have only caught his meaning partially 
and imperfectly. But the same applies to any case in which 
we hear what a man says or read what he writes. And a 
partial and imperfect understanding is not the same thing as 
a complete failure to understand. 


For example, a man reading the first canto of the Inferno 
may have no idea what Dante meant by the three beasts. 
Are they deadly sins, or are they potentates, or what are they ? 
he may ask. In that perplexity, however, he has not com- 
pletely lost contact with his author. There is still a great deal 
in the canto which he can understand, that is to say, trans- 
mute from impression into idea by the work of his conscious- 
ness; and all this, he can be fairly confident, he grasps as 
Dante meant it. And even the three beasts, though he does 
not understand them completely (something remains ob- 
stinately a mere untransmuted impression) he understands 
in part; he sees that they are something the poet dreads, 
and he imaginatively experiences the dread, though he does 
not know what it is that is dreaded. 

Or take (since Dante may be ruled out as allegorical and 
therefore unfair) an example from modern poetry. I do not 
know how many readers of Mr. Eliot’s poem Sweeney among 
the Nightingales have the least idea what precisely the situation 
is which the poet is depicting. I have never heard or read any 
expression of such an idea. Sweeney has dropped asleep 
in a restaurant, vaguely puzzled by the fact that the Convent 
of the Sacred Heart, next door, has reminded him of some- 
thing, he cannot tell what. A wounded Heart, and waiting 
husbandless women. As he snores all through the second 
verse a prostitute in a long cloak comes and sits on his knees, 
and at that moment he dreams the answer. It is Agamem- 
non’s cry — ‘O, I am wounded mortally to the heart’ — 
wounded to death at his homecoming by the false wife he 
had left behind. He wakes, stretching and laughing (tilting 
the girl off his knee), as he realizes that in the queer 
working of his mind the hooded husbandless nuns and the 
cloaked husbandless girl, waiting there like a spider for 
her prey, are both Klytaemnestra, the faithless wife who 
threw her cloak (the ‘net of death’) round her lord and 
stabbed him. 

I quote this case because I had known and enjoyed the 
poem for years before I saw that this was what it was all 


about; and nevertheless I understood enough to value it 
highly. And I am willing to believe that the distinguished 
critic who thinks that the ‘liquid siftings’ of the nightingales 
were not their excrement, but their songs, values it highly 
too, and not everywhere so unintelligently as that sample 
would suggest. 1 

The imaginative experience contained in a work of art is 
not a closed whole. There is no sense in putting the dilemma 
that a man either understands it (that is, has made that entire 
experience his own) or does not. Understanding it is always 
a complex business, consisting of many phases, each com- 
plete in itself but each leading on to the next. A determined 
and intelligent audience will penetrate into this complex far 
enough, if the work of art is a good one, to get something 
of value; but it need not on that account think it has ex- 
tracted ‘the’ meaning of the work, for there is no such thing. 
The doctrine of a plurality of meanings, expounded for the 
case of holy scripture by St. Thomas Aquinas, is in principle 
perfectly sound : as he states it, the only trouble is that it does 
not go far enough. In some shape or other, it is true of all 

§ 5. The Audience as Collaborator 
The audience as understander, attempting an exact recon- 
struction in its pwn mind of the artist’s imaginative experi- 
ence, is engaged on an endless quest. It can carry out this 
reconstruction only in part. This looks as if the artist were 
a kind of transcendent genius whose meaning is always too 
profound for his audience of humbler mortals to grasp in a 
more than fragmentary way. And an artist inclined to give 
himself airs will no doubt interpret the situation like that. 
But another interpretation is possible. The artist may take 
his audience’s limitations into account when composing his 
work; in which case they will appear to him not as limitations 

1 And it was not until a few days after I had written the above, that I 
recognized ‘gloomy Orion’ as a borrowing from Marlowe’s Dido — another 
tragedy about a husbandless woman. 


on the extent to which his work will prove comprehensible, 
but as conditions determining the subject-matter or meaning 
of the work itself. In so far as the artist feels himself at one 
with his audience, this will involve no condescension on his 
part; it will mean that he takes it as his business to express 
not his own private emotions, irrespectively of whether any 
one else feels them or not, but the emotions he shares with his 
audience. Instead of conceiving himself as a mystagogue, 
leading his audience as far as it can follow along the dark and 
difficult paths of his own mind, he will conceive himself as 
his audience’s spokesman, saying for it the things it wants to 
say but cannot say unaided. Instead of setting up for the 
great man who (as Hegel said) imposes upon the world the 
task of understanding him, he will be a humbler person, 
imposing upon himself the task of understanding his world, 
and thus enabling it to understand itself. 

In this case his relation to his audience will no longer be a 
mere by-product of his aesthetic experience, as it still was 
in the situation described in the preceding section ; it will be 
an integral part of that experience itself. If what he is trying 
to do is to express emotions that are not his own merely, but 
his audience’s as well, his success in doing this will be tested 
by his audience’s reception of what he has to say. What he 
says will be something that his audience says through his 
mouth; and his satisfaction in having expressed what he feels 
will be at the same time, in so far as he communicates this 
expression to them, their satisfaction in having expressed 
what they feel. There will thus be something more than 
mere communication from artist to audience, there will be 
collaboration between audience and artist. 

We have inherited a long tradition, beginning in the late 
eighteenth century with the cult of ‘genius’, and lasting all 
through the nineteenth, which is inimical to this second 
alternative. But I have already said that this tradition is 
dying away. Artists are less inclined to give themselves airs 
than they used to be; and there are many indications that 
they are more willing than they were, even a generation ago, 


to regard their audiences as collaborators. It is perhaps no 
longer foolish to hope that this way of conceiving the relation 
between artist and audience may be worth discussing. 

There are grounds for thinking that this idea of the 
relation is the right one. As in § 2 , we must look at the facts; 
and we shall find that, whatever airs they may give them- 
selves, artists have always been in the habit of treating the 
public as collaborators. On a technical theory of art, this is, 
in a sense, comprehensible. If the artist is trying to arouse 
certain emotions in his audience, a refusal on the part of the 
audience to develop these emotions proves that the artist has 
failed. But this is one of the many points in which the 
technical theory does not so much miss the truth as misre- 
present it. An artist need not be a slave to the technical 
theory, in order to feel that his audience’s approbation is 
relevant to the question whether he has done his work well 
or ill. There have been painters who would not exhibit, 
poets who would not publish, musicians who would not have 
their works performed; but those who have made this great 
refusal, so far as one knows them, have not been of the highest 
quality. There has been a lack of genuineness about their 
work, corresponding to this strain of secretiveness in their 
character, which is inconsistent with good art. The man 
who feels that he has something to say is not only willing 
to say it in public : he craves to say it in public, and feels that 
until it has been thus said it has not been said at all. The 
public is always, no doubt, a circumscribed one: it may 
consist only of a few friends, and at most it includes only 
people who can buy or borrow a book or get hold of a theatre 
ticket; but every artist knows that publication of some kind 
is a necessity to him. 

Every artist knows, too, that the reception he gets from 
his public is not a matter of indifference to him. He may 
train himself to take rebuffs with a stiff lip, and go on working 
in spite of bad sales and hostile reviews. He must so train 
himself, if he is to do his best work; because with the best 
will in the world (quite apart from venality in reviewers and 


frivolity in readers) no one enjoys having his unconscious 
emotions dragged into the light of consciousness, and conse- 
quently there is often a strongly painful dement in a genuine 
aesthetic experience, and a strong temptation to reject it. 
But the reason why the artist finds it so hard to train himself 
in this way is because these rebuffs wound him not in his 
personal vanity, but in his judgement as to the soundness of 
the work he has done. 

Here we come to the point. One might suppose that the 
artist by himself is in his own eyes a sufficient judge of his 
work’s value. If he is satisfied with it, why should he mind 
what others think ? But things do not work like that. The 
artist, like any one else who comes before an audience, must 
put a bold face on it; he must do the best he can, and pretend 
that he knows it is good. But probably no artist has ever been 
so conceited as to be wholly taken in by his own pretence. 
Unless he sees his own proclamation, ‘This is good’, echoed 
on the faces of his audience — *Y es, that is good’- — he wonders 
whether he was speaking the truth or not. He thought he 
had enjoyed and recorded a genuine aesthetic experience, 
but has he ? Was he suffering from a corruption of conscious- 
ness ? Has his audience judged him better than he judged 

These are facts which no artist, I think, will deny, unless 
in that feverish way in which we all deny what we know to 
be true and will not accept. If they are facts, they prove that, 
in spite of all disclaimers, artists do look upon their audiences 
as collaborators with themselves in the attempt to answer the 
question : is this a genuine work of art or not ? But this is the 
thin end of a wedge. Once the audience’s collaboration is 
admitted thus far, it must be admitted farther. 

The artist’s business is to express emotions ; and the only 
emotions he can express are those which he feels, namely, 
his own. No one can judge whether he has expressed them 
except some one who feels them. If they are his own and no 
one else’s, there is no one except himself who can judge 
whether he has expressed them or not. If he attaches any 


importance to the judgement of his audience, it can only be 
because he thinks that the emotions he has tried to express are 
emotions not peculiar to himself, but shared by his audience, 
and that the expression of them he has achieved (if indeed he 
has achieved it) is as valid for the audience as it is for himself. 
In other words, he undertakes his artistic labour not as a 
personal effort on his own private behalf, but as a public 
labour on behalf of the community to which he belongs. 
Whatever statement of emotion he utters is prefaced by the 
implicit rubric, not ‘I feel’, but ‘we feel’. And it is not 
strictly even a labour undertaken by himself on behalf of the 
community. It is a labour in which he invites the community 
to participate; for their function as audience is not passively 
to accept his work, but to do it over again for themselves. 
If he invites them to do this, it is because he has reason to 
think they will accept his invitation, that is, because he thinks 
he is inviting them to do what they already want to do. 

In so far as the artist feels all this (and an artist who did 
not feel it would not feel the craving to publish his work, 
or take seriously the public’s opinion of it), he feels it not 
only after his work is completed, but from its inception and 
throughout its composition. The audience is perpetually 
present to him as a factor in his artistic labour; not as an 
anti-aesthetic factor, corrupting the sincerity of his work by 
considerations of reputation and reward, but as an aesthetic 
factor, defining what the problem is which as an artist he is 
trying to solve — what emotions he is to express — and what 
constitutes a solution of it. The audience which the artist 
thus feels as collaborating with himself may be a large one 
or a small one, but it is never absent. 

§ 6. Aesthetic Individualism 

The understanding of the audience’s function as collabora- 
tor is a matter of importance for the future both of aesthetic 
theory and of art itself. The obstacle to understanding it is 
a traditional individualistic psychology through which, as 
through distorting glasses, we are in the habit of looking 


at artistic work. We think of the artist as a self-contained 
personality, sole author of everything he does : of the emo- 
tions he expresses as his personal emotions, and of his 
expression of them as his personal expression. We even 
forget what it is that he thus expresses, and speak of his 
work as ‘self-expression’, persuading ourselves that what 
makes a poem great is the fact that it ‘expresses a great 
personality’, whereas, if self-expression is the order of the 
day, whatever value we set on such a poem is due to its 
expressing not the poet — what is Shakespeare to us, or we 
to Shakespeare? — but ourselves. 

It would be tedious to enumerate the tangles of misunder- 
standing which this nonsense about self-expression has 
generated. To take one such only: it has set us off looking 
for ‘the man Shakespeare’ in his poems, and trying to 
reconstruct his life and opinions from them, as if that were 
possible, or as if, were it possible, it would help us to 
appreciate his work. It has degraded criticism to the level 
of personal gossip, and confused art with exhibitionism. 
What I prefer to attempt is not a tale of misdeeds, but a 

In principle, this refutation is simple. Individualism 
conceives a man as if he were God, a self-contained and self- 
sufficient creative power whose only task is to be himself and 
to exhibit his nature in whatever works are appropriate to it. 
But a man, in his art as in everything else, is a finite being. 
Everything that he does is done in relation to others like 
himself. As artist, he is a speaker; but a man speaks as he 
has been taught; he speaks the tongue in which he was born. 
The musician did not invent his scale or his instruments; 
even if he invents a new scale or a new instrument he is only 
modifying what he has learnt from others. The painter did 
not invent the idea of painting pictures or the pigments and 
brushes with which he paints them. Even the most pre- 
cocious poet hears and reads poetry before he writes it. 
Moreover, just as every artist stands in relation to other 
artists from whom he has acquired his art, so he stands in 


relation to some audience to whom he addresses it. The 
child learning his mother tongue, as we have seen, learns 
simultaneously to be a speaker and to be a listener; he listens 
to others speaking, and speaks to others listening. It is the 
same with artists. They become poets or painters or musi- 
cians not by some process of development from within, as 
they grow beards; but by living in a society where these 
languages are current. Like other speakers, they speak to 
those who understand. 

The aesthetic activity is the activity of speaking. Speech 
is speech only so far as it is both spoken and heard. A man 
may, no doubt, speak to himself and be his own hearer; but 
what he says to himself is in principle capable of being said 
to any one sharing his language. As a finite being, man 
becomes aware of himself as a person only so far as he finds 
himself standing in relation to others of whom he simultane- 
ously becomes aware as persons. And there is no point in 
his life at which a man has finished becoming aware of 
himself as a person. That awareness is constantly being 
reinforced, developed, applied in new ways. On every such 
occasion the old appeal must be made: he must find others 
whom he can recognize as persons in this new fashion, or he 
cannot as a finite being assure himself that this new phase of 
personality is genuinely in his possession. If he has a new 
thought, he must explain it to others, in order that, finding 
them able to understand it, he may be sure it is a good one. 
If he has a new emotion, he must express it to others, in 
order that, finding them able to share it, he may be sure his 
consciousness of it is not corrupt. 

This is not inconsistent with the doctrine, stated else- 
where in this book, that the aesthetic experience or aesthetic 
activity is one which goes on in the artist’s mind. The 
experience of being listened to is an experience which goes 
on in the mind of the speaker, although in order to its 
existence a listener is necessary, so that the activity is a 
collaboration. Mutual love is a collaborative activity; but 
the experience of this activity in the mind of each lover taken 


singly is a different experience from that of loving and being 


A final refutation of aesthetic individualism will, therefore, 
turn on analysis of the relation between the artist and his 
audience, developing the view stated in the last section that 
this is a case of collaboration. But I propose to lead up to 
this by way of two other arguments. I shall try to show that 
the individualistic theory of artistic creation is false (i) as 
regards the relation between a given artist and those fellow 
artists who in terms of the individualistic theory are said to 
‘influence’ him; (2) as regards his relation with those who are 
said to ‘perform his works’ ; and (3) as regards his relation 
with the persons known as his ‘audience’. In each case, I 
shall maintain, the relation is really collaborative. 

§ 7. Collaboration between Artists 

Individualism would have it that the work of a genuine 
artist is altogether ‘original’, that is to say, purely his own 
work and not in any way that of other artists. The emotions 
expressed must be simply and solely his own, and so must 
his way of expressing them. It is a shock to persons labour- 
ing under this prejudice when they find that Shakespeare’s 
plays, and notably Hamlet , that happy hunting-ground of 
self-expressionists, are merely adaptations of plays by other 
writers, scraps of Holinshed, Lives by Plutarch, or excerpts 
from the Gesta Romanorum ; that Handel copied out into his 
own works whole movements by Arne; that the Scherzo 
of Beethoven’s C minor Symphony begins by reproducing 
the Finale of Mozart’s G minor, differently barred; or that 
Turner was in the habit of lifting his composition from the 
works of Claude Lorrain. Shakespeare or Handel or Beet- 
hoven or Turner would have thought it odd that anybody 
should be shocked. All artists have modelled their style 
upon that of others, used subjects that others have used, and 
treated them as others have treated them already. A work 
of art so constructed is a work of collaboration. It is partly 
by the man whose name it bears, partly by those from whom 

p - 


he has borrowed. What we call the works of Shakespeare, 
for example, proceed in this way not simply and solely from 
the individual mind of the man William Shakespeare of 
Stratford (or, for that matter, the man Francis Bacon of 
Verulam) but partly from Kyd, partly from Marlowe, 
and so forth. 

The individualistic theory of authorship would lead to 
the most absurd conclusions. If we regard the Iliad as a 
fine poem, the question whether it was written by one man 
or by many is automatically, for us, settled. If we regard 
Chartres cathedral as a work of art, we must contradict the 
architects who tell us that one spire was built in the twelfth 
century and the other in the sixteenth, and convince our- 
selves that it was all built at once. Or again : English prose 
of the early seventeenth century may be admired when it is 
original; but not the Authorized Version, for that is a trans- 
lation, and a translation, because no one man is solely 
responsible for it, cannot be a work of art. I am very willing 
to allow with Descartes that ‘often there is less perfection in 
works put together out of several parts, and made by the 
hands of different masters, than in those at which one only 
has worked’; but not to replace his ‘often’ by ‘always’. I am 
very willing to recognize that, under the reign of nineteenth- 
century individualism, good artists have seldom been willing 
to translate, because they have gone chasing after ‘originality’ ; 
but not to deny the name of poetry to Catullus’s rendering 
of Sappho merely because I happen to know it for a trans- 

If we look candidly at the history of art, or even the little 
of it that we happen to know, we shall see that collaboration 
between artists has always been the rule. I refer especially 
to that kind of collaboration in which one artist grafts his 
own work upon that of another, or (if you wish to be abusive) 
plagiarizes another’s for incorporation in his own. A new 
code of artistic morality grew up in the nineteenth century, 
according to which plagiarism was a crime. I will not ask 
how much that had to do, whether as cause or as effect, with 



the artistic barrenness and mediocrity of the age (though it 
is obvious, I think, that a man who can be annoyed with 
another for stealing his ideas must be pretty poor in ideas, as 
well as much less concerned for the intrinsic value of what 
ideas he has than for his own reputation) ; I will only say that 
this fooling about personal property must cease. Let painters 
and writers and musicians steal with both hands whatever 
they can use, wherever they can find it. And if any one 
objects to having his own precious ideas borrowed by 
others, the remedy is easy. He can keep them to himself by 
not publishing; and the public will probably have cause to 
thank him. 

§ 8 . Collaboration between Author and Performer 

Certain kinds of artist, notably the dramatist and the 
musician, compose for performance. Individualism would 
maintain that their works, however ‘influenced’, as the phrase 
goes, by those of other artists, issue from the writer’s pen 
complete and finished; they are plays by Shakespeare and 
symphonies by Beethoven, and these men are great artists, 
who have written on their own responsibility a text which, 
as the work of a great artist, imposes on the theatre and the 
orchestra a duty to perform it exactly as it stands. 

But the book of a play or the score of a symphony, how- 
ever cumbered with stage-directions, expression-marks, 
metronome figures, and so forth, cannot possibly indicate in 
every detail how the work is to be performed. Tell the 
performer that he must perform the thing exactly as it is 
written, and he knows you are talking nonsense. He knows 
that however much he tries to obey you there are still 
countless points he must decide for himself. And the author, 
if he is qualified to write a play or a symphony, knows it too, 
and reckons on it. He demands of his performers a spirit 
of constructive and intelligent co-operation. He recognizes 
that what he is putting on paper is not a play or a symphony, 
or even complete directions for performing one, but only a 
rough outline of such directions, where the performers, with 


the help, no doubt, of producer and conductor, are not only- 
permitted but required to fill in the details. Every performer 
is co-author of the work he performs. 

This is obvious enough, but in our tradition of the last 
hundred years and more we have been constantly shutting 
our eyes to it. Authors and performers have found them- 
selves driven into a state of mutual suspicion and hostility. 
Performers have been told that they must not claim the status 
of collaborators, and must accept the sacred text just as they 
find it; authors have tried to guard against any danger of 
collaboration from performers by making their book or their 
text fool-proof. The result has been not to stop performers 
from collaborating (that is impossible), but to breed up a 
generation of performers who are not qualified to colla- 
borate boldly and competently. When Mozart leaves it to 
his soloist to improvise the cadenza of a concerto, he is in 
effect insisting that the soloist shall be more than a mere 
executant; he is to be something of a composer, and there- 
fore trained to collaborate intelligently. Authors who try 
to produce a fool-proof text are choosing fools as their 

§ 9. The Artist and his Audience 

The individualism of the artist, partly broken down by 
collaboration with his fellow artists and still further by 
collaboration with his performers, where he has them, is not 
yet wholly vanquished. There still remains the most difficult 
and important problem of all, namely, that of his relation to 
his audience. We have seen in § 6 that this, too, must in 
theory be a case of collaboration ; but it is one thing to argue 
the point in theory, and quite another to show it at work in 
practice. In order to do this, I will begin with the case where 
the artist is a collaborative unit consisting of author and 
performers, as in the theatre, and consider how, as a matter 
of empirical fact, this unit is related to the audience. 

If one wants to answer this question for oneself, the best 
way to proceed is to attend the dress rehearsal of a play. In the 


rehearsal of any given passage, scenery, lighting, and dresses 
may all be exactly as they are at a public performance; the 
actors may move and speak exactly as they will ‘on the night’ ; 
there may be few interruptions for criticism by the producer; 
and yet the spectator will realize that everything is different. 
The company are going through the motions of acting a 
play, and yet no play is being acted. This is not because there 
have been interruptions, breaking the thread of the perfor- 
mance. A work of art is very tolerant of interruption. The 
intervals between acts at a play do not break the thread, they 
rest the audience. Nobody ever read the Iliad or the Corn- 
media at a sitting, but many people know what they are like. 
What happens at the dress rehearsal is something quite 
different from interruption. It can be described by saying 
that every line, every gesture, falls dead in the empty house. 
The company is not acting a play at all ; it is performing cer- 
tain actions which will become a play when there is an 
audience present to act as a sounding-board. It becomes 
clear, then, that the aesthetic activity which is the play is 
not an activity on the part of the author and the company 
together, which this unit can perform in the audience’s 
absence. It is an activity in which the audience is a partner. 

Any one, probably, can learn this by watching a dress 
rehearsal; but the principle does not apply to the theatre 
alone. It applies to rehearsals by a choir or orchestra, or to 
a skilled and successful public speaker rehearsing a speech. 
A careful study of such things will convince any one who is 
open to conviction that the position of the audience is very 
far from being that of a licensed eavesdropper, overhearing 
something that would be complete without him. Performers 
know it already. They know that their audience is not 
passively receptive of what they give it, but is determining 
by its reception of them how their performance is to be 
carried on. A person accustomed to extempore speaking, 
for example, knows that if once he can make contact with 
his audience it will somehow tell him what he is to say, so 
that he finds himself saying things he had never thought of 


before. These are the things which, on that particular 
subject, he and nobody else ought to be saying to that 
audience and no other. People to whom this is not a familiar 
experience are, of course, common; but they have no business 
to speak in public. 

It is a weakness of printed literature that this reciprocity 
between writer and reader is difficult to maintain. The 
printing-press separates the writer from his audience and 
fosters cross-purposes between them. The organization of 
the literary profession and the ‘technique’ of good writing, 
as that is understood among ourselves, consist to a great 
extent of methods for mitigating this evil; but the evil is 
only mitigated and not removed. It is intensified by every 
new mechanization of art. The reason why gramophone 
music is so unsatisfactory to any one accustomed to real 
music is not because the mechanical reproduction of the 
sounds is bad — that could be easily compensated by the 
hearer’s imagination — but because the performers and 
the audience are out of touch. The audience is not collabo- 
rating, it is only overhearing. The same thing happens in the 
cinema, where collaboration as between author and producer 
is intense, but as between this unit and the audience non- 
existent. Performances on the wireless have the same defect. 
The consequence is that the gramophone, the cinema, and 
the wireless are perfectly serviceable as vehicles of amuse- 
ment or of propaganda, for here the audience’s function is 
merely receptive and not concreative; but as vehicles of art 
they are subject to all the defects of the printing-press in an 
aggravated form. ‘Why’, one hears it asked, ‘should not 
the modern popular entertainment of the cinema, like the 
Renaissance popular entertainment of the theatre, produce 
a new form of great art?’ The answer is simple. In the 
Renaissance theatre collaboration between author and actors 
on the one hand, and audience on the other, was a lively 
reality. In the cinema it is impossible. 

The conclusion of this chapter may be summarized 
briefly. The work of artistic creation is not a work performed 



in any exclusive or complete fashion in the mind of the person 
whom we call the artist. That idea is a delusion bred of 
individualistic psychology, together with a false view of the 
relation not so much between body and mind as between 
experience at the psychical level and experience at the level 
of thought. The aesthetic activity is an activity of thought 
in the form of consciousness, converting into imagination an 
experience which, apart from being so converted, is sensuous. 
This activity is a corporate activity belonging not to any 
one human being but to a community. It is performed not 
only by the man whom we individualistically call the artist, 
but partly by all the other artists of whom we speak as 
‘influencing’ him, where we really mean collaborating with 
him. It is performed not only by this corporate body of 
artists, but (in the case of the arts of performance) by 
executants, who are not merely acting under the artist’s 
orders, but are collaborating with him to produce the 
finished work. And even now the activity of artistic creation 
is not complete; for that, there must be an audience, whose 
function is therefore not a merely receptive one, but colla- 
borative too. The artist (although under the spell of in- 
dividualistic prejudices he may try to deny it) stands thus 
in collaborative relations with an entire community; not an 
ideal community of all human beings as such, but the actual 
community of fellow artists from whom he borrows, execu- 
tants whom he employs, and audience to whom he speaks. 
By recognizing these relations and counting upon them in 
his work, he strengthens and enriches that work itself; by 
denying them he impoverishes it. 



The aesthetician, if I understand his business aright, is not 
concerned with dateless realities lodged in some metaphysical 
heaven, but with the facts of his own place and his own time. 
These, at any rate, are what I have concerned myself with in 
writing this book. The problems I have discussed are those 
which force themselves upon me when I look round at the 
present condition of the arts in our own civilization; and the 
reason I have tried to solve them is because I do not see how 
that condition (both of the arts and of the civilization to 
which they belong) can be bettered unless a solution is 
found. Our business, as I said before, is to cultivate our 
garden; but gardens may get into such a state that they are 
no longer cultivable without help from chemists and engineers 
and other experts on whom, in happier times, the gardener 
would look with a hostile eye. 

My final question, then, is : how does the theory advanced 
in this book bear upon the present situation, and illuminate 
the path to be taken by artists in the immediate future ? 

To begin by developing a general point already made in 
the preceding chapter: we must get rid of the conception 
of artistic ownership. In this sphere, whatever may be true 
of others, lapropriite c’estle <vol. We try to secure a livelihood 
for our artists (and God knows they need it) by copyright 
laws protecting them against plagiarism; but the reason why 
our artists are in such a poor way is because of that very 
individualism which these laws enforce. If an artist may say 
nothing except what he has invented by his own sole efforts, 
it stands to reason he will be poor in ideas. If he could take 
what he wants wherever he could find it, as Euripides and 
Dante and Michelangelo and Shakespeare and Bach were 
free, his larder would always be full, and his cookery might 
be worth tasting. 


This is a simple matter, and one in which artists can act 
for themselves without asking help (which I am afraid they 
would ask in vain) from lawyers and legislators. Let every 
artist make a vow, and here among artists I include all such 
as write or speak on scientific or learned subjects, never to 
prosecute or lend himself to a prosecution under the law of 
copyright. Let any artist who appeals to that law be cut by 
his friends, asked to resign from his clubs, and cold- 
shouldered by any society in which right-thihking artists 
have influence. It would not be many years before the law 
was a dead letter, and the strangle-hold of artistic individua- 
lism in this one respect a thing of the past. 

This, however, will not be enough unless the freedom so 
won is used. Let all such artists as understand one another, 
therefore, plagiarize each other’s work like men. Let each 
borrow his friends’ best ideas, and try to improve on them. 
If A thinks himself a better poet than B, let him stop hinting 
it in the pages of an essay, let him re-write B’s poems and 
publish his own improved version. If X is dissatisfied with 
Y’s this-year Academy picture, let him paint one caricaturing 
it; not a sketch in Punchy but a full-sized picture for next 
year’s Academy. I will not rely upon the banging com- 
mittee’s sense of humour to the extent of guaranteeing that 
they would accept it; but if they did, we should get brighter 
Academy exhibitions. Or if he cannot improve on his 
friends’ ideas, at least let him borrow them; it will do him 
good to try fitting them into works of his own, and it will be 
an advertisement for the creditor. An absurd suggestion? 
Well, I am only proposing that modern artists should treat 
each other as Greek dramatists or Renaissance painters or 
Elizabethan poets did. If any one thinks that the law of 
copyright has fostered better art than those barbarous times 
could produce, I will not try to convert him. 

Next, with regard to the arts of performance, where one 
man designs a work of art and another, or a group of others, 
executes it. Ruskin (who was not always wrong) insisted 
long ago that in the special case of architecture the best work 


demanded a genuine collaboration between designer and 
executants: not a relation in which the workmen simply 
carried out orders, but one in which they had a share in the 
work of designing. Ruskin did not succeed in his project 
of reviving English architecture, because he only saw his 
own idea dimly and could not think out its implications, 
which was better done afterwards by William Morris ; but 
the idea he partly grasped is one application of the idea I 
shall try to state. 

In these arts (I am especially thinking of music and drama) 
we must get rid, to put it briefly, of the stage-direction as 
developed by Mr. Bernard Shaw. When we see a play 
swathed and larded with these excrescences, we must rub 
our eyes and ask : ‘What is this ? Is the author, by his own 
confession, so bad a writer that he cannot make his intention 
clear to his producer and cast without composing a com- 
mentary on his play that makes it look like an edition for use 
in schools? Or is it that producers and actors, when this 
queer old stuff was written, were such idiots that they could 
not put a play on unless they were told with this intolerable 
deal of verbiage exactly how to do it ? The author’s evident 
anxiety to show what a sharp fellow he was makes the first 
alternative perhaps the more probable; but really there is no 
need for us to choose. Whether it was the author or the 
company that was chiefly to blame, we can see that such stuff 
(clever though the dialogue is, in its way) must have been 
written at a time when dramatic art in England was at its 
lowest ebb.’ 

I am only using Mr. Shaw as an example of a general 
tendency. The same tendency is to be seen at work in most 
plays of the later nineteenth century; and it is just as con- 
spicuous in music. Compare any musical score of the late 
nineteenth century with any of the eighteenth (not, of course, 
a nineteenth-century edition), and see how it is sprinkled with 
expression-marks, as if the composer assumed either that he 
had expressed himself too obscurely for any executant to 
make sense of the music, or that the executants for whom 


he writes were half-witted. I do not say that every stage- 
direction in the book of a play, or every expression-mark in 
a musical score, is a mark of incompetence either in the 
author or in the performer. I dare say a certain number of 
them are necessary. But I do say that the attempt to make a 
text fool-proof by multiplying them indicates a distrust of his 
performers 1 on the part of the author which must somehow 
be got rid of if these arts are to flourish again as they have 
flourished in the past. This cannot be done at a blow. It 
can only be done at all if we fix our eyes on the kind of result 
we want to achieve, and work deliberately towards it. 

We must face the fact that every performer is of necessity 
a co-author, and develop its implications. We must have 
authors who are willing to admit their performers into their 
counsels : authors who will re-write in the theatre or concert- 
room as rehearsals proceed, keeping their text fluid while the 
producer and the actors, or conductor and orchestra, help 
to shape it for performance; authors who understand the 
business of performance so well that the text they finally 
produce is intelligible without stage-directions or expression- 
marks. We must have performers (including producers and 
conductors, but including also the humblest members of cast 
and orchestra) who take an intelligent and instructed interest 
in the problems of authorship, and are consequently de- 
serving of their author’s confidence and entitled to have their 
say as partners in the collaboration. These two results can 
probably be best obtained by establishing a more or less 
permanent connexion between certain authors and certain 
groups of performers. In the theatre, a few partnerships of 
this kind are already in existence, and promise a future for 
the drama that must yield better work on both sides than 
was possible in the bad old days (not yet, unfortunately, at 
an end) when a play was hawked from manager to manager 

1 If an y one says that these stage-directions are intended not for the theatre, 
but for the reader, I still object to them on grounds arising out of the author’s 
relation to his audience. I dare say Mr. Shaw thinks that it is not so much 
the actors, as the public, that are fools. I shall show later on that this is no 


until at last, perhaps with a bribe of cash, it was accepted for 
performance. But the drama or music which these partner- 
ships will produce must in certain ways be a new kind of 
art; and we must also, therefore, have audiences trained to 
accept and demand it; audiences which do not ask for the 
slick shop-finish of a ready-made article fed to them through 
a theatrical or orchestral machine, but are able to appreciate 
and enjoy the more vivid and sensitive quality of a perfor- 
mance in which the company or the orchestra are performing 
what they themselves have helped to compose. Such a 
performance will never be so amusing as. the standard 
West-end play or the ordinary symphony concert to an after- 
dinner audience of the overfed rich. The audience to which 
it appeals must be one in search not of amusement, but of art. 

This brings me to the third point at which reform is 
necessary: the relation between the artist, or rather the 
collaborative unit of artist and performers, and the audience. 
To deal first with the arts of performance, what is here 
required is that the audience should feel itself (and not only 
feel itself, but actually and effectively become) a partner in 
the work of artistic creation. In England at the present time 
this is recognized as a principle by Mr. Rupert Doone and 
his colleagues of the Group Theatre. But it is not enough 
merely to recognize it as a principle; and how to carry out 
the principle in detail is a difficult question. Mr. Doone 
assures his audience that they are participants and not mere 
spectators, and asks them to behave accordingly; but the 
audience are apt to be a little puzzled as to what they are 
expected to do. What is needed is to create small and 
more or less stable audiences, not like those which attend a 
repertory theatre or a series of subscription concerts (for it 
is one thing to dine frequently at a certain restaurant, and 
quite another to be welcomed in the kitchen), but more like 
that of a theatrical or musical club, where the audience are 
in the habit of attending not only performances but re- 
hearsals, make friends with authors and performers, know 
about the aims and projects of the group to which they all 


alike belong, and feel themselves responsible, each in his 
degree, for its successes and failures. Obviously this can be 
done only if all parties entirely get rid of the idea that the 
art in question is a kind of amusement, and see it as a serious 
job, art proper. 

With the arts of publication (notably painting and non- 
dramatic writing) the principle is the same, but the situation 
is more difficult. The promiscuous dissemination of books 
and paintings by the press and public exhibition creates a 
shapeless and anonymous audience whose collaborative func- 
tion it is impossible to exploit. Out of this formless dust 
of humanity a painter or writer can, indeed, crystallize an 
audience of his own; but only when he has already made 
his mark. Consequently, it is no help to him just when 
he most needs its help, while his artistic powers are still 
immature. The specialist writer on learned subjects is in 
a happier position; he has from the first an audience of 
fellow specialists, whom he addresses, and from whom an 
echo reaches him; and only one who has written in this way 
for a narrow, specialized public can realize how that echo 
helps him with his work and gives him th^ confidence that 
comes from knowing what his public expects and thinks 
of him. But the non-specialist writer and the painter of 
pictures are to-day in a position where their public is as good 
as useless to them. The evils are obvious; such men are 
driven into a choice between commercialism and barren 
eccentricity. There are critics and reviewers, literary and 
artistic journals, which ought to be at work mitigating these 
evils and establishing contact between a writer or painter and 
the kind of audience he needs. But in practice they seldom 
seem to understand that this is, or should be, their function, 
and either they do nothing at all or they do more harm than 
good. The fact is becoming notorious; publishers are ceasing 
to be interested in the reviews their books get, and begin- 
ning to decide that they make no difference to the sales. 

Unless this situation can be altered, there is a real likeli- 
hood that painting and non-dramatic literature, as forms of 


art, may cease to exist, their heritage being absorbed partly 
into various kinds of entertainment, advertisement, instruc- 
tion, or propaganda, partly into other forms of art like drama 
and architecture, where the artist is in direct contact with his 
audience. Indeed, this has begun to happen already. The 
novel, once an important literary form, has all but dis- 
appeared, except as an amusement for the semi-literate. The 
easel-picture is still being painted, but only for exhibition 
purposes. It is not being sold. Those who can remember 
the interiors of the eighteen-nineties, with their densely 
picture-hung walls, realize that the painters of to-day are 
working to supply a market that no longer exists. They are 
not likely to go on doing it for long. 

The rescue of these two arts from their threatened ex- 
tinction, as arts, depends upon bringing them back into 
contact with their audience. The kind of contact that is 
required is a collaborative contact in which the audience 
genuinely shares in the creative activity. It is, therefore, not 
to be achieved by any improvement in salesmanship , 1 for 
this assumes that the works of art are already complete before 
being offered to the public, and that the audience’s function 
is limited to understanding them. 

In the case of literature, the only way which I can see of 
establishing such contact is for authors to give up the idea 
of ‘pure literature’, or literature whose interest depends not 
on its subject-matter, but solely on its ‘technical’ qualities, 
and write on subjects about which people want to read. This 
does not mean turning away from art proper to amusement 
or magic; for the kind of subjects about which I am thinking 
does not consist of subjects chosen for their power of arousing 
emotion, whether for discharge in the reading itself or for 
discharge in the affairs of real life. They are subjects about 
which people already have emotions, but obscure and 

1 A good publisher may, however, help to establish the kind of contact 
we are seeking, in so far as, instead of merely publishing what authors give 
him, he tells them (as he should be able to do) what kind of books are wanted. 
The best publishers already do a good deal of this, and writers who are not 
too conceited to co-operate with them find it extremely valuable. 


confused ones; and in wanting to read about these subjects 
they are wanting to raise these emotions to the level of con- 
sciousness, to become imaginatively aware of them. 

For this reason (and this, too, will differentiate such litera- 
ture from that of amusement and from that of magic) it is 
not so much a question of the author’s ‘choosing’ a subject; 
it is a question rather of his letting a subject choose him: 
I mean, a question of his spontaneously sharing the interest 
which people around him feel in a certain subject, and allow- 
ing that interest to determine what he writes. By so doing, 
he will have accepted the collaboration of his public from the 
very inception of his work, and the public thus accepted as 
collaborators will inevitably become his audience. Some 
writers will regard this as a lowering of their artistic standard. 
But that is only because their artistic standard is entangled 
in a false aesthetic theory. Art is not contemplation, it is 
action. If art were contemplation, it could be pursued by an 
artist who constitutes himself a mere spectator of the world 
around him, and depicts or describes what he sees. But, as 
the expression of emotion and addressed to a public, it 
requires of the artist that he should participate in his public’s 
emotions, and therefore in the activities with which these 
emotions are bound up. Writers are to-day beginning to 
realize that important literature cannot be written without 
an important subject-matter . 1 In that realization lies the 
hope of a thriving literature yet to be written ; for the subject- 
matter is the point at which the audience’s collaboration can 
fertilize the writer’s work. 

In the case of painting, the same line of advance is open; 
but the prospect of its being exploited is less good. I write 
chiefly for English readers and about conditions in England; 
and it is notorious that English painting is traditionally far 
less vigorous and far less securely rooted in the life of the 
country than English literature. In painting, we have 
hardly begun to emerge from the stupid welter of eccen- 

1 Cf. Louis MacNiece, ‘Subject in Modern Poetry’, in Essays and Studies 
by Members of the English Association , vol. xxii (1937), pp. 146-58. 


tricities and ‘isms’ which marked the decay of individualistic 
nineteenth-century art. I see no such tendency in English 
painting to-day as I see in English writing, towards utilizing 
the collaborative energies of the audience by painting sub- 
jects which English people, or some large and important 
section of them, want to see painted. 

Nevertheless, painting in this country has improved a great 
deal in recent years. The Royal Academy’s exhibition of 
1937 testified to a degree of average competence in a large 
number of exhibitors which was quite unthinkable ten years 
ago. Something is certainly happening to English painting; 
something not unworthy to be compared with what is happen- 
ing to English literature. Each of them is ceasing to rely on 
its amusement value to an audience of wealthy philistines, 
and is substituting for that aim not one of amusement value 
to an audience of wage-earners or dole-drawers, nor yet one 
of magical value, but one of genuine artistic competence. 
But the question is whether this ideal of artistic competence 
is directed backwards into the blind alley of nineteenth- 
century individualism, where the artist’s only purpose was to 
express ‘himself’, or forwards into a new path where the 
artist, laying aside his individualistic pretensions, walks as 
the spokesman of his audience. 

In literature, those who chiefly matter have made the 
choice, and made it rightly. The credit for this belongs in 
the main to one great poet, who has set the example by 
taking as his theme in a long series of poems a subject that 
interests every one, the decay of our civilization. Apart from 
one or two trifles, Mr. Eliot has never published a line of 
‘pure literature’. Looking back, one sees the whole of his 
early verse as a succession of sketches and studies for The 
Waste Land . 1 First with a gentle irony in Prufrock, pretend- 
ing to be merely a minor poet with a disillusioned eye for 

1 He has said it himself. The words ‘why then lie fit you’, at the end of 
The Waste Land, introduce the passage in The Spanish Tragedy where 
Hicronimo brings out the play he wrote ‘when in Tolledo there I studied’, 
explaining that this youthful work will fit the present occasion (Act xv, 
scene i). 




the emotions of others, then with deepening intensity in 
Gerontion and growing savagery in the Sweeney poems, he 
found himself (that self which to the outward eye seemed 
arch-highbrow, another Henry James, steeped in literature 
and innocent — as he was called by one who should have 
known better — of public-spiritedness) by degrees shaping 
his mouth to the tremendous howl of Marlowe’s Mephisto- 
philis — ‘Why this is hell’. 

The decay of our civilization, as depicted in The Waste 
Land , is not an affair of violence and wrong-doing. It is not 
exhibited in the persecution of the virtuous and in the 
flourishing of the wicked like a green bay tree. It is not even 
a triumph of the meaner sins, avarice and lust. The drowned 
Phoenician sailor has forgotten the profit and loss; the rape 
of Philomel by the barbarous king is only a carved picture, 
a withered stump of time. These things are for remembrance, 
to contrast with a present where nothing is but stony rubbish, 
dead tree, dry rock, revealed in their nakedness by an April 
that breeds lilacs out of the dead land, but no new life in the 
dead heart of man. There is no question here of expressing 
private emotions; the picture to be painted is not the picture 
of any individual, or of any individual shadow, however 
lengthened into spurious history by morning or evening sun ; 
it is the picture of a whole world of men, shadows themselves, 
flowing over London Bridge in the winter fog of that Limbo 
which involves those who, because they never lived, are 
equally hateful to God and to his enemies. 

The picture unrolls. First the rich, the idle man and his 
idle mistress, surrounded by all the apparatus of luxury and 
learning; but in their hearts there is not even lust, nothing 
but fretted nerves and the exasperation of boredom. Then 
the public-house at night; the poor, no less empty-hearted: 
idle recrimination, futile longing for a good time, barren 
wombs and faded, fruitless youth, and an awful anonymous 
voice punctuating the chatter with a warning ‘Hurry up 
please it’s time’. Time for all these things to end; time’s 
winged chariot, the grave a fine and private place, and mad 


Ophelia’s good-night, the river waiting for her. And then 
the river itself, with its memories of idle summer love- 
making, futile passionless seductions, the lover whose vanity 
makes a welcome of indifference, the mistress brought up to 
expect nothing; with contrasting memories of the splendours 
once created by Sir Christopher Wren, the pageantry of 
Elizabeth, and Saint Augustine for whom lust was real and 
a thing worth fighting. 

Enough of detail. The poem depicts a world where the 
wholesome flowing water of emotion, which alone fertilizes 
all human activity, has dried up. Passions that once ran 
so strongly as to threaten the defeat of prudence, the destruc- 
tion of human individuality, the wreck of men’s little ships, 
are shrunk to nothing. No one gives; no one will risk him- 
self by sympathizing; no one has anything to control. We 
are imprisoned in ourselves, becalmed in a windless selfish- 
ness. The only emotion left us is fear: fear of emotion itself, 
fear of death by drowning in it, fear in a handful of dust. 

This poem is not in the least amusing. Nor is it in the 
least magical. The reader who expects it to be satire, or an 
entertaining description of vices, is as disappointed with it as 
the reader who expects it to be propaganda, or an exhorta- 
tion to get up and do something. To the annoyance of both 
parties, it contains no indictments and no proposals. To the 
amateurs of literature, brought up on the idea of poetry as a 
genteel amusement, the thing is an affront. To the little neo- 
Kiplings who think of poetry as an incitement to political 
virtue, it is even worse; for it describes an evil where no one 
and nothing is to blame, an evil not curable by shooting 
capitalists or destroying a social system, a disease which has 
so eaten into civilization that political remedies are about as 
useful as poulticing a cancer. 

To readers who want not amusement or magic, but 
poetry, and who want to know what poetry can be, if it is to 
be neither of these things, The Waste Land supplies an 
answer. And by reflecting on it we can perhaps detect one 
more characteristic which art must have, if it is to forgo 


both entertainment-value and magical value } and draw a 
subject-matter from its audience themselves. It must be 
prophetic. The artist must prophesy not in the sense that he 
foretells things to come, but in the sense that he tells his 
audience, at risk of their displeasure, the secrets of their own 
hearts. His business as an artist is to speak out, to make a 
clean breast. But what he has to utter is not, as the indivi- 
dualistic theory of art would have us think, his own secrets. 
As spokesman of his community, the secrets he must utter 
are theirs. The reason why they need him is that no com- 
munity altogether knows its own heart; and by failing in this 
knowledge a community deceives itself on the one subject 
concerning which ignorance means death. For the evils 
which come from that ignorance the poet as prophet 
suggests no remedy, because he has already given one. 
The remedy is the poem itself. Art is the community’s 
medicine for the worst disease of mind, the corruption of 


abstract thought, 254. 

Academy, Royal, 32 6, 333. 
accidence, 2 56. 
acquaintance, 169-70. 
actio : passia, 219. 
activity : passivity, 196. 

Addison, J., 138. 
advertisement, 32-3. 

Aeschylus, 98. 

aesthetic emotion, see emotion, 
aesthetics, business of, 325. 
Agamemnon, 310. 
agreement, 158. 
agricultural depression, xc 2. 

Alexander, S., 149, 17 6, 205. 

Allen, Grant, 127. 
ambiguity, 7. 
amphitheatre, 97, 99. 
amusement, what, 32, 78, 277. 

— psychology of, 51-2. 

— art, ch. v, passim. 

among late nineteenth-century 

aesthetes, 70. 

Plato’s attack on, 49 seqq. 

Aristotle’s defence of, 51, 114. 

— its relation to magic: resemblance 
and difference, 65, 79. 

— mixture of, with magic, 82. 

— : enjoyment, 94. 

— : recreation, 95. 

— when a danger to practical life, 95. 

— history of, in Europe, 97 seqq. 

— not able to develop into art, 278. 
analogical meanings, 8-9. 
analysis, grammatical, 254 seqq. 

— logical, 26 r, seqq. 
analytic thought, 253. 
anger, xxo. 

anthropology, cultural : physical, 242. 
‘aphrodisiac civilization’ (Bergson), 86. 
‘appeal* to sensa, the, 170. 

‘appearances*, 190-2. 

‘applied* literature, 298. 

Aquinas, St. Thomas, 297, 311. 
archaic Greek art, 49. 

‘archetypes* of ideas (Locke), 177, 183. 
Archimedes, 267, 
architecture, 326-7. 

Aristotle on the philosophy of craft, 1 7,2 5. 

Aristotle (contd.) 

— on poet-craft, Z8-X9. 

— -his Poetics , 30, 50-x, 1x4. 

— on ‘beauty’, 38. 

— on representation, 43, 50, 114. 

of the universal, 46. 

— his defence of amusement art, 98. 

— on aOvam? tSv £vcxvt{wv, ir6 n. 

— on reproduction, 129. 

— on imagination, 171, 198. 

— on t6 frrl t6 ttoXO, 185, 256. 

— his logical writings, 259. 

Arne, T. A., 318. 

ars, 5, 15. 

art-schools, the use of, 2 8f. 
artifact = work of craft, 108, 132, 133. 
artist, the, his relation to ‘ordinary* 
men, 5, 1x7. 

— as aesthetician, 3, 4. 

‘attack on art’, Plato’s alleged, 46 

^ 77 - 

attention, 203 seqq., 222. 

— distraction of, 217-18. 

— negative, 217. 

audience, relation of a speaker to, 
iio-ii, 247 seqq. 

— reproduction of speaker’s experience 
in mind of, 1x8-19, 140. 

— relation to artist: as ‘overhearing*, 

as ‘understanding’, 308-9. 

as collaborating, 3x1-15, 321-4, 


Aurignacian art, 10, 77. 

Austen, Jane, X2t. 

Authorized Version, the, 319. 
awareness, 222. 

Ayer, A. J., 201 n. 

Azande, the, 8 n. 

Aztec society, 96. 

Bach, J» S*, 325* 

Bacon, F., 319. 

bad art, what it is not, 277. 

— what it is, 280 seqq. 
badness, what, 280. 

Beardsley, A., 54. 
beauty, 36 seqq. 

— : utility, 37. 

338 INDEX 

beauty (contd) 

— no connexion between art as such 
and, 37-41. 

— connected with admiration and 
desire (epws), 38. 

— non-aesthetic uses of the term are 
normal and correct, 39. 

— its misuse by aestheticians, 40, 91 n., 

beaux arts % Its, 6. 

‘because*, meaning of, x6 1. 

Beethoven, L. van, 85, 123, 318, 320. 
B6gouen, Count, 10. 
behaviourism, 205, 244. 
belle arti , le, 6. 

Berenson, B., 146-7. 

Bergson, H., 85, 263. 

Berkeley, G., rejects Locke’s doctrine 
that ‘all our simple ideas are real*, 

— distinguishes ‘ideas of sense* from 
‘ideas of imagination*, 178. 

— introspection theory of this distinc- 
tion, 178-9, 195. 

— relation theory of the distinction, 

— ‘laws of nature* in, 180-2, 190. 

— theory that ‘ideas o( imagination’ 
are ‘wild*, 181-2. 

— • ‘various colours variously disposed', 

— ‘force’ or ‘liveliness* of ideas of sense, 

— his theory of language, 226. 
bifurcation of consciousness, 94. 
biography, modern, neither art nor 

history, 87. 

bipolarity of thought, 157, 216, 277. 
Blake, Vernon, X45. 

‘blind* (Kant), 223 n. 
bodies, statements about, 165-6. 
Bosanquet, B., 46 n. 
bowdlerization, 10 1. 

— of imagination, 2x8-19. 

Bradley, F. H., 259. 

Brahms, J., 56. 

Brangwyn, F., 144. 

Breughel, P., 54. 

Broad, C. D,, 18 x, 

Brooke, Rupert, 244 n. 

Brown, Baldwin, 10. 

Buddha, 243-4. 
bull-roarer, 66. 

bullying, 87. 

Burne-Jones, Sir E., 120. 

cadenza, 321. 

Carritt, E. F., 149. 

Cartesians, 177, 187-8. 
catharsis, 57, xxo. 
cattishness, literature of, 87. 

Catullus, 3x9. 

Celtic art, 55. 

— twilight, X20. 

Cervantes, M., 87. 

Cezanne, P., 144, 146. 
charge, emotional, 78, 162-4. 

Chartres, 319. 

children, consciousness in, 208, 217. 

— language in, 227, 236-7, 239-4./, 
247 seqq . 

— play in, 80. 

Christianity, effect of on Roman art, 99. 
church : state, a Renaissance distinc- 
tion, 8. 

cinema, thej amusement-art, 97, 102. 

— as ‘fantasy*, 138. 

— obstacles to developing genuine art 
from, 4 323. 

civilization, European, characteristics 
of, r62. 

cliches not language but the corpse of 
language, 276-7. 

‘dogs to dogs*, 10 1. 

Coleridge, S. T., xi8. 
collaboration, 311 seqq . 
colour-symbolism, 162. 
comedyj 48, ix6. 

common-sense distinctions, value of, 

communication, 140, 249-50. 
communism, 71, 278. 
complex ideas (Locke), 176-7. 
compulsion neurosis, 63-4. 
concerto, as demanding collaboration 
from soloist, 32 x. 

Condillac, E. B. de, 20 x and n. 
confused ideas (Leibniz), 176. 
'conscious* : ‘unconsdous’, 204. 
consciousness, 109, 1x3, 223. 

— and self-consciousness, 248. 

— freedom of, 207-8. 

— modification of feeling by, 206 seqq, 

— perpetuation of feding by, 223. 

— relation of to imagination, 2x5. 

— as a form of thought, 2x5-16. 

INDEX 339 

consciousness (contd.) 

— as generating art, 273. 

— bifurcation of, 94. 

— corruption or untruth of, 217, 219, 
220, 251, 282-5, 33 6 - 

— emotions of, 232, 234, 274. 
contagion, emotional, 230 seqq , 
content and form, 24. 

context as affecting ‘meaning’, 258. 
contradiction, 158. 

Cook Wilson, 265 n. 
copyright, law of, 325-6. 
corroboration, 158. 

corruption, see consciousness, corrup- 
tion of. 

Cotman, J. S., 144. 
courtesy meanings, 3 , 9. 
craft : art, 5, 9, 113, 117, 119* 

— characteristics of, 15-17. 

— philosophy of, 17. 

— and art, overlap of, 22 n.j the same, 
further explained, 277. 

— theory of art as, 107-8, 139, t$i, 
and see technical theory of art. 

— making according to (i.e. fabrica- 
tion), what, 133. 

craftsman, 15 seqq . 
creating, what, 128, 151. 

— divine and human, 128-30. 

— imaginative, 134. 

— language : using it, 275. 
criticism, what, 3, 88. 

— impossible if art = representation, 
88 seqq . 

— relation of to artistic creation, 281. 

— degradation of to personal gossip, 

critics, why they disagree, 89-90. 

— their duty towards mechanized art, 
33 °* 

Croce, B., 46 n. 

dance, the, as the ‘original’ language, 
243-4, 246* 

— patterns as representations of, 55. 

— (modern) as magic, 75-6. 

— music, 72. 

D’Annunzio, G., 120. 

Dante, 295-6, 310, 325. 
dare, datum , 196. 

‘data’ of sense, no such thing as, 169. 
‘date’, to, a phrase of sham art-criti- 
dsm, 91. 

day-dreaming, 136, 138. 
decoration, domestic, as magic, 72. 
defecation, emotional, 51,* and see 

definition, relation of to establishment 
of usage, 2. 

degree, differences of, 187. 

‘denatured’ art, 34, 275. 

— language, 275. 

Descartes, R., on the problem of 
imagination, 174-6, 187. 

— on 'using the senses’, 205 and n. 

— his ‘universal science’, 220. 

— on unity of design, 319. 
describing : expressing emotions, m-13. 
desire, its relation to make-believe, 137. 
detective stories, 85-6. 

dinner party, ritual of, 76. 
discharge of emotion, 78. 
disease, its relation to corruption of 
consciousness, 220, 283. 

— moral, amusement as a, 95. 
disowning of emotions, 216-18, 251-2. 
dissociation, 219, 224. 

distortion, formula of, 107, 
domestication of feeling by conscious- 
ness, 209. 

domination of emotion, 235. 

— of feeling, 222. 

Donne, J., 295. 

Doone, R., 329. 

Dor6, G., 85. 

dreams as make-believe, 136. 

— : art, 138. 

— illusory element in, 188. 

— interpretation of, 193-4. 
dress as language, 244 n. 

dress rehearsal, what happens at, 321-2. 
drugs, 96. 

Dry den, J., 83. 
dulcet 82. 
duration, 159. 

earthing of emotion (= catharsis), 79. 
economic view of ‘art*, the, 19. 
Education Act of 1870, the, 10 x. 
Egyptian art as naturalistic and 
magical, 10, 54, 77* 

Eliot, T. S., Miss Sitwell on, 27. 

— The Waste Land \ 295, 333-5. 

— Sweeney among the Nightingales, 310. 
Elizabethan drama, 85. 
emergence, 233. 

340 * INDEX 

emotion, ‘art’ (= craft) as arousing, 
3 r-a, 

— as an end in itself (amusement), or 
as a means (magic), 3a. 

— catharsis of, 51-2. 

— relation of magic to, 6 $-6. 

— two phases of, the, 78. 

— arousing of, 108. 

— expression of, 109. 

— dual expression of, 232-4* 

— arousing : expressing, 113, 152. 

— of sensation, 161-3, 266. 

— of consciousness, 234, 2 66. 

— of intellect, 266 seqq. 

— Jamcs-Lange theory of, 232-3. 

— disowning of, 216-18, 251-2. 

— aesthetic, 115-17, 279, 
emotional contagion, 230 seqq. 
emotional charge on sensa, 162-3, 232, 

2 66. 

— on a mode of consciousness, 232, 266. 

— on intellectual activities, 266-8. 

— representation, 53 seqq. 

— use of words, 9. 

‘emotive use of language*, 262 seqq. t 
29 6. 

empirical thinking, 165, 167, 17m. 
enjoyment : amusement, 94. 

Enaor, R. C, K., 102 n. 

epithets in poetry, why suspect, 112. 

Ernulfus, curse of, 112. 

2pa>S, 38, 40. 

error as distortion of knowledge by 
prejudice, 107. 

— replacement of conception of illusion 
by that of, 190. 

— in consciousness as distinct from intel- 
lect, how possible, 217. 

not a bona fide ‘mistake', 219. 

— consciousness liable to, 248. 

‘eternal objects’, 159. 

Euripides, 325. 

European civilization, x62. 
Evans-Prichard, E. E., 8. 

‘execution’ of a plan, what, 132, 
experience, knowledge derived from, 

— ‘independently of*, x68. 

— sss imagination, 203. 

— as including intellect, 212. 
expression : arousing of emotion, 109, 


— ; betraying emotion, 121-4. 

expression (corttd.) 

— psychical, 228-34. 

— imaginative (—language), 234-41. 

— no emotion without, 238. 

— dual, of certain emotions, 232-4. 

— marks in music, 327-8. 
external world, the, 166. 

— imagination as factor in our know- 
ledge of, 192. 

fabrication, 125, 134. 
facts, scientific appeal to, 105. 
failure, implications of, 157. 
fairy tales, 72. 

‘families’ of sensa, 180-1. 
fancy ass sensation (Hobbes), 175. 

— = imagination (Locke), 200. 
fantasies, 136, 138, 219. 

‘fantastical ideas’ (Locke), 176-7. 
fascism, 7r. 

fear and amusement, 85. 
feeling : thinking, 157-60, 163. 

— the word applied to two sorts of 
thing, 160. 

— used in this book to designate the 
‘psychical level of experience’, 164. 

— as subject-matter of thought, 164. 

— - ‘mnemic’, 201 n. 

— conversion of into idea by conscious- 
ness, 209. 

fictions, 177, 254-5. 

'figment*, 172. 

‘fine art*, 6, 36. 

finished product : raw material, 16, 
flux of sensation, 159, 168-9, 210. 
folk-art, 72, 10 1. 
folk-songs, 88, 103. 
football as amusement, 102. 

— as magic, 73* 
form and matter, 16. 

no such distinction in art, 24. 

‘form* in formalistic aesthetics, 142. 
France, Anatole, 120. 

Frazer, Sir J. G,, 58 n., 64. 

Freud, S., 62, 64, 77 n., 127 n. 
funeral, magical purpose of, 75-6. 
‘furniture* of the mind (Locke) cannot 
be made of sensa, 200, 203. 

Galsworthy, J., 83. 
games, children’s, 79-80. 
generalizing representation, 45. 

— description as, 112-13. 

INDEX 341 

‘genius*, 118, 312. 

Gesta Romanorum , 318, 

gesture, 245-7* 

ghost stories, decline of, 85. 

'given*, 169, 196. 

God as craftsman, 18, 

— as creator, 128-30, 

Goethe, J. W. von, 127 n. 
goodness, what, 280. 

Graeco-Roman society, decay of, 96. 
grammar, 254 seqq . 

gramophone, the, why artistically un- 
satisfactory, 323. 

‘grand style*, the (Reynolds), 114, 
Graves, R., 127 n. 

Greek acting, 142. 

— art, 77. 

— — archaic, 97. 

— attitude to art, 6 . 

— decadence, 49. 

— drama, 11. 

— philosophy, 17- 

— political experience, 8* 

— world, decay of, 52. 

Group Theatre, the, 329. 

hallucinations, 179, 195. 

Hamlet, 124. 

Handel, G. F-» 3*8* 

Hardy, T., 123, 

health, its relation to consciousness, 284. 
heart, sensa related to labouring of, 193. 
hedonistic theory of art, 81. 

Hegel, G. W. F., 312. 

Heine, H., 23. 

Hellenistic world, the, 52. 

Henry V (Shakespeare), 124. 

Hermes, sandals of (Homer), 38, 
hierarchy of crafts, 25. 
historical study, progress in, 106. 
Hobbes, T,, 175-7 , 226. 

Hocart, A. M., 73 n. 

Holinshed, R., 318. 

Homer, 38, 49. 
homolingual translation, 260, 

Horace, 19, 30, 82. 

Hume, D., follows Berkeley in rejecting 
the view that ‘all our simple ideas are 
real*, 176. 

— distinguishes ideas from impressions 
by the introspection theory, 17 1, 
182-7, *95> aoo-i, 212. 

— how he differentiates them, 207-8. 

Hume, D. (contd.) 

— how ideas are ‘derived’ from impres- 
sipns, 2 1 1, 306. 

— means two different things by ‘im- 
pression*, 213-14. 

— inconsistent admission of, an, 184. 

— his ‘science of MAN*, 185. 

— ‘experience* for him means not 
sensation but imagination, 203. 

• — author of the Kantian theory of 
imagination, 223. 

— neglect of by contemporary philo- 
sophers, 200-r, 2x4. 

ideas (Locke), 200. 

— simple : complex (Locke), 176-7. 

— real : fantastical (Locke), X76-7. 

— • : impressions (Hume), 171, 183 seqq,, 
20 x seqq, 

— (Spinoza), 176. 

— clear and distinct (Spinoza), 219. 
idealism, 255, 259. 

idies fixes , 195. 

‘idioms', 258. 

‘illusion’, theatrical (a feature of amuse- 
ment art), 79. 

‘illusory sensa', 188-91, 194. 

‘images’, 190-2. 

imaginatio — sensation (Spinoza) , 176. 
imagination, what, 202. 

— theory of art as, 138. 

— as somehow more ‘active* than 
sensation, 195. 

— relation of to consciousness, 215. 

— as link between sense and under- 
standing, 17 xj in Kant, 223. 

— : intellect, 252. 

— : make-believe, 135, 286 seqq , 

— bowdlerized, 218-19. 

— confusion of sensation with, 200. 

— ideas of (Berkeley), 178-83. 
imaginary, 131, 152. 

— colours, See., 173. 

— sensa, what, 194, 
imagining : really seeing, 172. 
imitation : representation, 42. 

— alleged instinct of, 240-1 . 
‘impression’ (Hume), 171, 183 seqq, 

— ambiguous, 213. 

impressions : ideas, 202 seqq,, 222, 274, 
283, 291, 306. 

improper senses of words, iai. 

‘impute* (Alexander), 149. 

342 INDEX 

inadequate ideas, 224. 

Inca society, 96. 

'inconsistency* in art, 287-8. 
individual, the; knowledge of itself 
prior to knowledge of its relations, 

— art is knowledge of, 288-9. 
individualism, 3 1 5-24. 
individualization a work of ait proper, 

1 12. 

individualized : generalized representa- 
tion, 45. 
inference, 261. 
initiation-ceremonies, 66, 76. 
inspiration, 126. 

'instinct of imitation*, 240-1. 
instruction, 'art* as, 32. 
intellect, what, 216. 

• — two forms of, 216. 

— relation of attention to, 204. 

— emotions of, 266 seqq., 293 seqq . 

■ — art and, 292 seqq . 

‘intellectuals*, 120. 
intellectualized language, 225, 267. 
intelligibility, 122. 
interpretation, 205. 
introspection, 205. 

— theory of relation between sense and 
imagination, 178-9, 195. 

‘ivory towers’, 120-1. 

Jame9, D. G., 34, 

James, Henry, 334. 

James-Lange theory of emotion, 232-3, 
jazz, 56. 

Jerome, J. K., 83. 

Jonson, B., 22-3, 27, 82 n. 
journalism as amusement art, 97. 
Jowett, B., 46 m, 361, 
judgement sss criticism, 89, 

Jung, C. G., 127 n. 

K<&OV, TO, 37. 

Kant, I., 17 5, 259. 

— on bird-song, 39. 

— on painting, 145. 

— on a priori knowledge, 167-8, 

— on imagination and its function in 
knowledge, X71, 192, 198, 223 n, 

— on scientific method, 185. 

— his discovery of second-order laws, 

— on the relation between the real and 
the imaginary, 182, 187. 

Kant, I. (< contd .) 

wkeapais, 51, and see catharsis. 

Kipling, R., 70, 245 n. 

Kyd, T., 319. 

language, what, 235-6, 

— as expressive, 109. 

— as imaginative, 225. 

— art as, 273 seqq, 

— the world as, 291. 

— false reduction of a priori propo- 
sitions to propositions about, 168, 
201 n. 

languages, plurality of, 241 seqq. 

La T£ne art, 55. 

Leibniz, G. W., 176, 187. 

Leighton, Lord, iao. 

Leonardo da Vinci, 127 n. 

Levy-Bruhl, L., 61-4. 
lexicographical units, 256, 260. 
lexicography, 256. 

Lewis, M. G., 85. 
liberalism, 71. 
lies, 219. 

‘likeness* in portraiture, what, 52 -6, 
listening : hearing, 204. 
literal ; emotional representation, 53 

‘liveliness* of ideas, 178. 

Locke, J., on children, idiots, and 
savages, 59, 

— on real and fantastical ideas, 176- 
9 - 

— on degrees of knowledge, 187 n, 

— germs of introspection theory in, 
I 77 » i 79 > i 95 ; 

— as a materialist, 197. 

— error about ‘simple ideas*, 200, 203. 

— on language, 226. 
logic, traditional, 259 seqq . 
logical positivism, 201 n., 259. 
looking : seeing, 203-4. 

Lorrain, Claude, 318. 

love, theory of, 38, 41. 

Lowenfeld, M., 80 n. 
lucidity, 122. 

MacNieoe, L., 332 n. 

Magdalenian art, 10, 77. 
magic, what it is not: Tylor-Frazer 
theory, 58 seqq. 

— . — Levy-Bruhl’s theory, 60-3. 

— — Freud’s theory, 62-4. 

INDEX 343 

magic (contd.) 

— what it is, 32, 65-9, 277. 

— -perversion of, 68. 

— and amusement, relations of, 65, 79. 

— — mixture of, 82 seqq. 

— impossibility of genuine criticism if 
art is confused with, 92-4. 

— not able to develop into art, 278. 
magical ‘art’, 49, 69 seqq . 
make-believe as a feature of amusement, 

79, Sx, 94* 

— : imagination, 135-8, 152, 286, 296. 

— as imagination working under the 
censorship of desire, 137. 

Malebranchc, N., 197, 198. 
malice and amusement art, 87. 
Malinowski, B., 61 n. 

Malvolio, 87. 

manual gesture, language of, 242-3. 
Marlowe, C., 311 n., 319, 334. 
marriage-ceremony, magical purpose 
of, 75-6. 

Marryat, F., 82. 

Masaccio, 146-7. 
masks worn by actors, 142, 
material, see raw material, 
materialism, 197. 
matter and form, 16. 

‘mean, what we', 7, 269. 
meaning, Dante's theory of, 31 1. 
means and ends, 15-17, 20-1, 34, 108, 
xxi, 276. 

mechanized ‘art', 323. 
medieval art, 77, 97. 

— philosophy, 175. 
memory, 2x1, 254. 

‘mentality', an occult entity, 60-2. 
‘metaphysics', 198. 
metaphysicians, 131. 

micare digitzs, 242. 

Michelangelo, 100, 325. 

Middle Ages, beginning of, 99. 

— magical character of art in, 70, 97, 
military music, 72-3. 

Milne, A. A., 83. 
mirrors, 189. 
misunderstanding, 251. 

‘mnemic feelings', 201 n. 

Moli&re, J. B. P. de, 62. 

Monde oil l* on s’ amuse, /*, 97. 

Monet, C., 146. 

monkeys and typewriters, 126 n. 
Moore, G. E., 198 n., 199 and n., 202 n. 

morality not merely practical, 289. 
Morris, William, 327. 
motor hallucinations, 63. 
motor sensations, 147. 

Mozart, W, A., 85, 318, 321. 
music, 245, 327-8. 

— and gesture, 243. 

— : sound, 139-40, 143, 151. 

‘mystical* connexions (French sense), 


natural kinds, 280. 

naturalism, what, 54. 

nature, laws of (Berkeley), 180-2, 190. 

— — sect *nd-order, 1 86-7. 

— world of, 166. 
necessity, art and, 286-7. 
negroes, 8. 
nco-Platonism, 129. 
neurosis, 65. 

Newman, E., 148. 

Newton, Sir L, 176. 

‘nothing, creation out of’, 129. 
novels, popular, not art, 138. 

— decay of, 331. 

objective : subjective, 148-50, 
objets d'art , 36, and see works of art. 
obsolete meanings, 7, 9. 
occult entities, 62-3, 

Olympia, sculptures at, 52, 98. 
opera, Wagner’s theory of, 25. 
oppression, sense of, xio, 1x7. 
orchestra, listening to, 143. 
order, second, thoughts of the, 168, 

‘originals* of ideas (Locke), 183. 
originality, 43, 275, 318-19. 
‘overhearing’, audience as, xxx, 300, 
overlap of art and craft, 22 n., 43, 277. 

pageantry, social, its magical purpose, 
74 - 

pain as an element in aesthetic ex- 
perience, 314. 

painting not a ‘visual art*, 144 seqq. 

— state of English, 332-3. 
palaeolithic art, 9-10, 54. 
panem et circenses, 97, 102, 
part and whole, 15. 
passio, 219. 

passivity, 176. 

‘patch, red', 203-4, 2x2, 

344 INDEX 

pattern-quality, 233. 
patriotic art, 73. 
petxifere (Spinoza), 17 6. 
performers, relation of author to, 320 

perpetuation of sensa, 209, 212, 222. 
persona , 248. 
personality, 248, 317. 

— - 'expression of*, 316. 
perspective, 145 n., 1530. 

‘philosophy* : ‘science*, 167. 

— • as a literary form, 296-9. 
photography, faking in, 53- 

— ‘unlike* the original, 53 n., 54-5. 
physical anthropology, 242. 
physiology, appeal to, 178. 
pianoforte, use of imagination in listen- 
ing to the, 14a, 

pictures, easel, decay of, 331. 

Pindar, 48. 

Pistol, 87, 124. 
plagiarism, 319-zo, 324-6. 
plan, what, 132-3. 
planning, 15. 

— absent from art, 21-2. 
plane of the picture, 145, 153 n- 
Plato, difficulty of understanding, 6. 

— theory of justice detached from 
theory of craft, 18. 

— theory of creation subsumed under 
theory of craft, 18. 

— theory of art subsumed under 
theory of craft, 18, 19, 30. 

— theory of beauty connected not with 
art but with love, 38. 

— docs not regard all art as representa- 
tive, 43. 

— the myth about his attack on art, 
46, 98. 

— his attack on amusement art, 46-51, 

— historical context of this attack, 97-9. 

— tragedy and comedy in Symposium y 
116 n. 

— 'lie in the soul’, 219 a. 
play, 80. 

Plutarch, 318. 
plutocracy and art, 100. 

Poc, E. A«, 54, 86* 
poet-craft, 18, 27, 
poetic a, ars, 5. 

TrouyT 1x1*1 T^xvq, 5, 18. 

*nr6Ais, what, 8. 

Pope, A., 1 19. 
pornography, 84. 

portraiture as representation, 44, 52-4. 

— as art, 45, 309. 

• — ‘likeness* in, 53, 309. 

— Roman, xx. 

— Egyptian, ro-rr, 54, 77. 
positivism, 58. 

Praxiteles, 52. 
preferability, logical, 261. 

‘president of the immortals’ (Hardy), 

123 - 

Price, H. H., 1 80-1. 

Price, Sir XJ., 145. 
printing-press, the, 323, 330. 
privacy, 157-8. 
projection, 218. 
proletariat, Roman, 99. 
propaganda, 32-3. 
prophecy, poetry as, 336. 
propositions, 260, 265-6. 
prose, 296. 

Prospero, 6. 
psyche, 164. 

psychical expression, 228 seqq. 

— level of experience, 164, iyx, 273* 
psycho-analysis, 220. 
psycho-analystB, 138. 
psychological aesthetics, 29 seqq.> 81, 

127, 151. 

— laws, 181-2. 

— terms, why not useful in poetry, 112. 
psychology, 19, 17m. 

— itB proper business, 164, 17m. 

— its recognition of corrupt con- 
sciousness and its effects, 218-19. 

— its relation to physics, 182. 

— the, of amusement art, 51* 

— literature not to be taken as, 114. 
puppets, 142. 

‘pure* : ‘applied’ literature, 298. 
puritanism, 100. 

‘purging’ (catharsis) of emotion, 51. 
puzzles as a form of 'art*, 32. 
Pythagoras, 297. 

Radcliffe, Mrs, A., 85. 
rain-making, 68. 
rainbow, 193. 
ranting, 122-4. 

Raphael, 146, 

raw material in craft, *6. 

— none in art, 22. 

reaction, see stimulus. 

‘real*, 174. ^ 

— imagination and the, 136. 

- — and imaginary, representation 

the, 45. 

— things, 13 1. 

— colours, &c., 173. 

— ideas (Locke), 176-7, 

— sensation, sensa, 173-4. 
realistic aesthetics, 41, 149-51. 
reality as a Kantian category, 1S6. 
‘really seeing*, 172-3. 

— there*, 172, 192. 

‘reason* : ‘understanding’, 167. 
recreation : amusement, 95. 
reflection, ideas of (Locke), 184. 
Reformation, the, its attitude towards 

‘art*, 100. 

refutation of a theory, the consequences 
of, 106. 

rehearsal, 321-2. 
relations, 252-3, 

— ‘between sensa*, 168-9, 198. 
religion, relation to magic, 73. 
religious art, 72, 

Renaissance, its use of the word ‘art’, 6, 

— its political consciousness, 8. 

— — its aesthetic theory, 43. 

— its art not a magical but an amuse*, 
ment art, 70, 97. 

— magical art surviving the, 72. 

— Mr. Berenson’s study of its painting, 

— its anti-Aristotelianism, 259. 

— its theatre, 323. 
representation, art and, 42 seqq. 

— literal and emotional, 53. 

— degrees of, 54. 

— criticism and, 88 seqq. 

— generalizing, 114. 

— distinctions according to effect 
aimed at, intrinsic to, 116, 

repression, 218, 224, 
reproduction of speaker’s thought by 
hearer, 140. 
response, see stimulus, 
reviewers, 313, 330. 

Reynolds, Sir J., 45, 114. 

Richards, I. A., 35, 127 n,, 225 n,, 26a 

‘ritual* in compulsion-neurosis, 64. 
Roman Empire, 96, 102. 

— portraiture, 11. 


romanticism, 46. 

Rostovtseff, M., 99 n. 

Ruskin, J., 45-6, 326. 

Russell, B., 180. 

Sappho, 319. 
satire, 87. 

savages, study of, 57. 

Savonarola, G., 100. 

Sayers, Miss D. L., 86. 
scholastic terms, 196. 

‘science’ : ‘philosophy*, 167. 

— of MAN (Hume*s), 185. 

‘scientific use of language*, 262 seqq,, 


scientist, magician compared to, 58. 
second order, thought of the, 168. 
second-order laws of nature, 186-7. 
selection, what, 56. 

— none in art proper, 1 15. 
self-assertion, 209, 222. 
self-consciousness, 208-9, *4^. 
self-deception, 219. 
self-expression, 316. 

Semon, E., 201 n. 
sensa, see sensum. 
sensation, 160, 

— its relation to emotion, 161-2. 

— as including imagination, 172. 

— as excluding imagination, 173. 

— confusion of, with imagination, 200. 
— : attention, 203 . 

— idea of (Locke), 184. 

sense, ideas of (Berkeley), 178-83. 
senses, deceitfulness of (Descartes), 175. 
‘sense-data*, meaning of ‘data’ in, 196. 

— ambiguity of term, 214. 

— suggestio falsi in term, 169, 22 r. 

— ‘world constructed out of, 214. 
sensory hallucinations, 63. 

sensual pleasure, art falsely identified 
with, 141, 148. 

sensum (sensa), current use of the term, 
1635 criticism of, 169-70. 

— how used in ch, ix, 173. 

— ambiguity of the term, 214. 

— false distinction between real and 
imaginary, 194. 

— ‘interpretation of, by thought*, 165, 
* 93 - 

— the above doctrine corrected, 215. 

— ‘relations between*, 168-9, 198. 

— the above doctrine corrected, 202. 





sensum (sensa) (1 contd .) 

— emotional charge on, 162. 

— sterilization of, 162-3. 
sentences, 257, 260. 
sentimental literature, 88. 
sexual desire as a basis of amusement-art, 


Shakespeare, W., 6, 87, 124, 126 n., 143, 
* 94 > 3 e6 » 3^8, 3 * 9 > 32 °> 3 * 5 ' 
Shandy, Mr., 129. 

Shaw, G. B., 82, 327—8. 

Shelley, P. B., 295-6. 
simple ideas (Locke), 176. 
sincerity, 1x5. 

Sisley, A., 146. 

Sitwell, Mis9 E., 27. 

Skeaping, J., 10. 
skill, what, 28. 

Slop, Dr., 1 12. 

Smith, N. K., 223. 
snobbery, literature of, 87-8. 
societies, causes of death of, 96. 

Socrates, 175 in Plato, 46 seqq . 

‘soul*, 164. 

— lie in the*, 219. 

sound : music, 139-40, 143, 151. 
speaking, see language. 

— public, 322-3. 

Spenser, E., 3x9. 

Spinoza, B., 176, 2x9-20, 224, 232 n., 

‘spirit* : ‘soul*, 164. 
spontaneity of sensation, 197. 
sport as magic, 73-4. 
stage-directions, 327-8. 
standard, bipolarity implied in a, 157. 
state : church, 8. 
sterilization of sensa, 162-3. 
stimulus, reaction to, 81, in, 196. 
‘strength* of ideas, what, 178. 
Strindberg, 54. 
subject-matter, 71, 279. 
subject-predicate form, 259-60. 
subjective-objective, 148-50, 
success, 157. 

Suetonius Tranquillus, C., 206. 
surrealism a form of representation, 54. 
syllogism, 261. 

symbol, proper meaning of word, 55, 

— s=a artifact representing its original in 
the second degree, 55. 

— a word, 20 x tt. 

symbolism = selective representation, 
76 . . 

— = intellectualized language, 225-6, 

‘sympathetic* magic, 59. 
sympathy, 231, 248. 
synonymity, 256. 
syntax, 257. 

‘tactile values*, 146-7, 243, 304. 

— strictly motor rather than tactile, 


Tailor and Cutter , The, 35. 

technical terms, 7-8, 268. 

technical theory of art, 17, 105-8, 116, 

148, 263, 301-2, 315. 
technique, 26-9. 

— no t. of expression, ixx. 

5 » I 5 * 

terms, usage of, 88. 

Theatre, Roman, 97, 99. 
theory, questions of, 105. 

— : practice, 289 seqq . 
thought : feeling, 157 seqq. 

— primary form of, 164-6, 186. 

— secondary form of, 166-8. 

— bipolarity of, 2x6, 

— consciousness aa a form of, 215. 

— abstract, 254. 

— analytic, 253. 
thrillers, 85. 

Tolstoy, L,, 264. 
topography, sentimental, 88. 
tragedy, 48, 51, 116. 
transformation of a raw material, 16. 
truth and consciousness, 2x6 seqq . 

— and art, 286 seqq . 

— of a proposition, never a sufficient 
reason for asserting it, 264. 

‘trying to* do something, what, 157. 
towns, folk-art in, 102. 

Turner, J. M. W., 46, 3x8. 

Tylor, Sir E. B., 58 n., 64. 

— his theory of magic, 58 seqq. 
typewriters, monkeys and, 126 n. 
typical, the, 46. 

unconscious, the, what, 204. 

— theories of art based on, 126. 
‘understanding* i 'reason*, 167. 

— by a hearer, 251. 
unemployment, 102. 

INDEX 347 

uniforms, emotional effect of, 245 n. 
universal, representation of the, 46. 
unreal, imagination indifferent to dis- 
tinction between real and, 1365 this 
statement corrected, 286 segg. 
untruthful consciousness, the, 219, 224, 
282, and see consciousness, corrup- 
tion of. 

usage, questions of, 1-2, 88, 105. 

— prior to questions of definition, 2. 
useful arts : fine arts, 36. 
using language : creating language, 275. 
utile > 82. 

values, see tactile values. 

Van Gogh, V., 53 n. 
verse, 296* 

Vico, Giambattista, 80, 138. 
violence, literature of, 87. 
violin, 143. 

'visual art*, painting not a, 144. 
Vulgar, speaking with the*, 131, X74. 

Wagner, R., 2$. 
war dance, 66-7. 

‘war poetry’, 123. 

‘way’ of acting, what, 113, 

Webster, J., 87. 

‘wild’ sensa, 18 x, 186-7. 

Wilde, O., 32, 70. 

words, see ambiguity, definition, lan- 
guage, terms, usage, 
wireless, 102, 323. 
work of art, what, 36-7, 

— ambiguity of phrase, 139. 

— = artifact or woxk of craft, 108, 146. 

— as imaginary object, 139 segg, 

«— the bodily, as necessary to aesthetic 
experience, 305 segg. 
writing, an incomplete notation for 
speech, 243, 

— ‘pure’ and ‘applied’, 298, 
wrongdoing, its relation to corruption 

of consciousness, 220. 

Yeats, W. B., x2o.